Azerbaijan GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

The second first

Max Verstappen,  Azerbijan GP 2017

Max Verstappen, Azerbijan GP 2017 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson

This year marked the second edition of the grand prix in Azerbaijan. The first practice session of the second time ended with Max Verstappen posting the fastest lap time in his Red Bull.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes – Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault – Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

With a length of miles 3.730-miles [6.003 km], the 20-turn track though the streets of Baku is the second longest on the F1 schedule. Only Spa at 4.352-miles [7.004 km] is longer.

Last year, the drivers found the track surface to be very slippery. So they were anxious to see what it was like 12 months later.

"They have taken a few curbs out here and there," Ricciardo noted before FP1 began, "which will open up a few apexes, which will make a few corners a little bit quicker, which is nice. It is not going to change much but it should be okay.

"I am curious if the track is going to evolve much from last year now that we've raced on it, to see if the asphalt has changed much. If it provides a bit more grip it should be a good weekend."

Sainz was the first driver out on that track for the first practice session for the second grand prix in Azerbaijan.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 127 degrees Fahrenheit (53 degrees Centigrade).

Pirelli's slick tire compounds for the weekend: medium, super soft and soft.

Massa, on the softs, set the early pace with a lap in 1:46.907, but only nine drivers clocked times in the first 25 minutes. Perez would beat that with a 1:46.295.

A reminder of just how slippery it was came when Massa and Hamilton both slid off the track and Bottas spun. That time was a second quicker than the best set in FP1 last year, incidentally also by Hamilton. Pole last year was a 1:42.758 by Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes.

After 40 minutes, when each driver had to hand back one set of tires, the top 10 were: Hamilton, now leading with a 1:45.497 on the softs Perez, Verstappen, Massa. Ocon, Ricciardo, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen and Magnussen. Most set their times on the soft compound. Sainz and Kvyat had yet to set any time at all.

"As usual, #FP1 is not hugely representative of likely race conditions. Expect hotter weather in #FP2. And softer compounds." Pirelli tweeted.

As the action resumed, Verstappen, on the super softs, turned a 1:45.409 and then a 1:44.762 followed by a 1:44.410. He also had to take to an escape road at the slick Turn 1.

Hamilton and the Ferrari drivers were still circulating on the soft compound slicks. Vettel slid off at Turn 8 and had to reverse back onto the track. He then went off at Turn 3.

With just under 20 minutes remaining, Perez crashed in the tight Castle Wall Turn 8, ripping off the right side wheels of the Force India. That brought out the red flags. He was unhurt.

Ricciardo was now second quickest followed by Vettel and Perez.

The clock continued to click while marshals cleaned up the mess – there was no place to place the damaged car – and the session was restarted with just six minutes to go.

The second first in Baku ended with the top 10 being: Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Ocon, Massa, Raikkonen and Stroll.


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