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Verstappen quickest on Friday in Baku, then crashes out

Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen was quickest on Friday in practice for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the eighth round in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, but the Dutchman ended the day in the barriers.

Verstappen set the pace in both sessions at the Baku City Circuit, managing a 1 minute 44.410 second lap in FP1, to leave him 0.470seconds up on team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen remained the man to beat in the evening session too, improving with a 1m 43.362s, 0.100secs up on the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in second, while Ricciardo slipped to third, 0.011secs further back. However with the session all but over the youngster made a mistake at Turn 1 and went sideways into the barriers.

“It was very weird,” Verstappen said. “I locked up, I could see I wasn’t going to make the corner so decided to take the run off, as I turned right I lost the rear and ended up sliding into the wall.

“It [the car] is broken – but luckily we have new parts and it should be fine for tomorrow.”

“Overall, the whole day has been really positive, except the last lap, and everything has been working well,” he continued. “From lap one I felt comfortable in the car, it was handling really well and I was confident with the setup. I think the preparation we did at the factory and in the simulator has allowed us to come here with a strong setup and competitive car from the go. This has definitely been the most positive Friday of the year so far.

“In the second session I felt I couldn’t get the maximum out of the short run pace due to yellow flags and traffic so we can be very happy to still finish P1.

“It feels like the cars are quicker through the corners this year, this means if you have a lock up in can be more critical.

“We are confident heading into qualifying but also wary that Mercedes will turn their engines up a bit. We are on top at the end of Friday which means they have to catch up so it will be exciting in the session tomorrow.”

“Practice one was quite tricky,” Bottas added. “We were struggling with the setup of the car and it wasn’t so well balanced. Today, we needed multiple laps in a row to generate the temperatures we want for a good balance. FP1 wasn’t a happy session, but we made some changes ahead of FP2 and the car definitely felt more comfortable.

“We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we’ll make another step this evening. We’ll work hard and if we can find those gains we’ll be right up there fighting for pole position.”

Verstappen, though, was not the only driver to put it in the barriers around the tricky street circuit, as Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer both did the same, but at Turn 8. Perez went off in his Force India near the end of FP1 bringing out the red flags, while Palmer crashed his Renault at the same spot mid-way through FP2.

A number of drivers also took to the escape roads through two rather messy sessions, including Championship leader, Sebastian Vettel. Vettel ended the day in fifth, 0.126secs off the sister Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen.

“We tried something in the afternoon, but I think it is difficult to find the rhythm here as the track is not easy. I believe I was not the only one to go down the escape roads,” Vettel remarked. “However, tomorrow is another day. I think we are close.

“Red Bull is very fast and today it was not just for one lap but throughout both sessions. However, I was pretty happy with our overall job. The straight here is very long, so you have to make sure you are quick enough there. Maybe we may still want to try a couple of things even tomorrow.”

Behind, Williams rookie Lance Stroll was an encouraging sixth, with Perez recovering from his crash to finish the day seventh, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and the other Force India of Esteban Ocon.

Lewis Hamilton, who dominated the Canadian Grand Prix weekend two weeks ago, was only tenth, 1.163secs off the pace – and over a second off Bottas in the other Merc.

“It was a difficult day out there,” Hamilton conceded. “This circuit is a tough one and we had a few challenges that we tried to work through today. We’ve clearly still got lots of work to do ahead of qualifying, but Valtteri’s time in FP2 looked promising, so there is obviously pace in the car, which is encouraging.

“Now it’s just a case of getting our heads together tonight to work out exactly how to extract that pace across the entire weekend.”

Of the rest, Felipe Massa managed P11 in his Williams, one spot ahead of McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso, who missed the final third of FP2 after stopping out on track with suspected engine issues. The Spaniard has already picked up a 15-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race due to various power unit changes, as has team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. Vandoorne was 17th quickest.

Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen and Renault duo Nico Hulkenberg and Palmer filled positions 13 through to 16, with the Sauber’s Pascal Wehrelin and Marcus Ericsson 18th and 19th. Romain Grosjean was slowest in his Haas hindered by brake-by-wire issues.

Practice 2 times available – HERE

Practice 1 times available – HERE

Picture credit: Red Bull Racing

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