Monaco winner Max Verstappen picked up where he left off two weeks ago as the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend got under way, a late effort on soft tyres seeing him head Free Practice 1 from the Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz – as Lewis Hamilton posted Mercedes’ fastest time in P7.
Verstappen headed out on the pits on softs with 15 minutes of FP1 to go, but had his first flying lap baulked by the Haas of Nikita Mazepin, drawing an angry response from the Dutchman – with Mazepin later spinning into the wall at the exit of Turn 16. But Verstappen’s second effort was good enough to stop the clocks at 1m 43.184s.
Ferrari enjoyed impressive speed in Monaco, but played down their chances of carrying the form through to Baku. But judging by FP1, that was something of a bluff, Leclerc winding up just 0.043s adrift of Verstappen in P2, while Sainz was around three-tenths further back in P3.
Two-time Baku podium finisher Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull, ahead of the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo, who briefly led the session before finishing 0.548s off Verstappen.
AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton (as well as Sainz) both survived out-braking themselves into Turn 15 to finish sixth and seventh – the positions they finished in at Monaco two weeks ago – with Hamilton’s best time over seventh-tenths off Verstappen, the seven-time champ having had promising laps scuppered by yellow flags.
FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||1:43.184|
|2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+0.043s|
|3 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari||+0.337s|
|4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing||+0.446s|
|5 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren||+0.548s|
Lando Norris finished eighth for McLaren, but might have been higher up had he not suffered a spin at the exit of Turn 16, having set two purple sectors beforehand.
A late effort from Alpine’s Fernando Alonso saw him take P9, ahead of the second Mercedes of 2019 Baku winner Valtteri Bottas in 10th, with more to come from the Finn after he ended up 1.707s adrift – having run off at Turn 2 and taken Norris with him with a handful of seconds to run in the session.
Kimi Raikkonen took the best time for Alfa Romeo in P11, ahead of the second Alfa of Antonio Giovinazzi and the leading Aston Martin of Lance Stroll. AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Haas’ Mick Schumacher both out-braked themselves at Turn 4 and had to execute “Austin Powers” reversing manoeuvres (in the words of George Russell’s engineer) to get out – with Tsunoda ending up P14 as Schumacher was P19.
A scrappy session from Sebastian Vettel saw him run off in Turns 1 and 16 before ending up 15th for Aston Martin, ahead of the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon, the two Williams of George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, with Schumacher and Mazepin rounding out the pack.
So, it’s Verstappen on top – but with more to come from Mercedes, and Ferrari nipping at his heels, it’s going to be a fascinating FP2. Stay tuned to F1.com for full live coverage of all the weekend’s action.