Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo headed the timesheets in FP1 and FP2 respectively for the Azerbijan Grand Prix as Max Verstappen put his Red Bull into the barriers in the morning session
Bottas edged Ricciardo by just 0.035s in FP1 with the caveat that Ricciardo set his fastest lap on supersoft tyres with the Mercedes driver on ultrasofts. The Mercedes pair had initially lead the way during the first half before the two Red Bull cars jumped to the top of the timesheets, Verstappen initially heading his teammate before Ricciardo went to the top. The lack of grip on the circuit was evident throughout the session, with several drivers heading off down the escape roads but Verstappen was the first big casualty after he clouted the barrier at turn five, the rear sliding out and hitting the wall and wrecking his suspension.
The virtual safety car was called out for around ten minutes as the marshall’s removed Verstappen’s stricken RB14 from the scene. After the session resumed under green flag conditions there were several improvements across the timescreen. Hamilton initially jumped to the top on ultrasoft tyres before Ricciardo got ahead of him on the supersofts. Bottas then produced the fastest time of the session on ultra’s with a 1m44.242s and just 0.035s ahead of the Red Bull. Hamilton had made a small mistake towards the end of his fastest lap which enabled Sergio Perez to jump into third place, Force India showing great pace with Esteban Ocon in fifth place with Hamilton wounding up fourth in the session. The Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were tenth and fifteenth respectively, the Scuderia running conservatively in the first session of the weekend.
FP2 saw Ricciardo head Raikkonen in a Red Bull 1-3 with Verstappen recovering from his earlier morning incident to jump into the top three with his teammate. The Red Bull driver hit the front just over ten minutes into the session and would remain at the top for the rest of the afternoon. Bottas nearly pipped his 1m43.512 by posting a laptime just 0.058s slower than Ricciardo. Once drivers headed out for their qualifying runs however Ricciardo was really in the groove, setting three fast laptimes and posting a best of 1m42.795s. Raikkonen got the closes to the Red Bull and was just 0.069s behind the Red Bull, but this was thanks to a tow throughout the whole of sector three behind Hamilton which would have given the Ferrari driver an extra few tenths to play with.
Verstappen survived another brush with the wall to be just 0.116s behind Ricciardo, Bottas slipping to over seven tenths behind Ricciardo as both he and teammate Hamilton struggled to fully get to grips with the Mercedes around the Baku circuit. Hamilton twice set the fastest first sector of the lap but several lock ups and wide moments relegated him to fifth in the overall order. Fernando Alonso meanwhile showed McLaren had made gains by going sixth fastest, 0.905 down on what Ricciardo had managed with Ocon showing well again in seventh for Force India.
Both Renault’s were also in the top ten with Carlos Sainz eighth fastest and Nico Hulkenburg tenth, split by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen which finished last years edition of the race in fifth place. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel had a scrappy session, wounding up 11th fastest with several trips down the escape roads and various struggles underbraking in his Ferrari.