Daniel Ricciardo finished the day with the fastest lap time after the first two practice sessions for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The Red Bull driver, who won this race last year, posted a time of 1:42.795 in P2, a tenth quicker than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, and 1.5 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas’s best time in P1. The Mercedes driver was fastest in the morning, and improved his time in the afternoon, but dropped behind Raikkonen and both Red Bulls, although he was ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in both periods.
Max Verstappen’s difficult start to the 2018 season continued as he struck the barrier at turn five early in the first session, ending his involvement in P1. Red Bull were still fixing the car at the start of P2 but did manage to get the Dutch driver out for the second practice, although he couldn’t match the pace of his teammate. There was another problem for Verstappen at the end of P2 as he had to limp back to the pitlane with a rough-sounding car, with his engineer advising him to keep his revs down.
Raikkonen’s pace in P2 came after missing a chunk of time in P1 with a mechanical issue which kept the team working on the car into the start of the afternoon session. Championship leader Sebastian Vettel could only manage 10th and 11th, having struggled to get a clean lap in during the final minutes of the later session.
Force India have brought some upgrades to Azerbaijan, and showed improved pace in the morning as Sergio Perez finished third, two spots ahead of teammate Estaban Ocon, although the duo dropped down the timesheets later in the day, with Ocon ending P2 7th and Perez 12th.
While Force India’s early pace dropped off, Renault put struggles in P1 behind them to finish the day with both cars in the top 10. Carlos Sainz was slowest in the morning after having tyre problems which limited him to just 11 laps. The car worked better later in the day though, allowing him to finish 8th in P2, two places higher than Nico Hulkenberg.
Kevin Magnussen also showed a vast improvement in P2 after finding track conditions difficult at the start of the day. The Dane was 18th in P1, 0.6s slower than Romain Grosjean in the sister Haas, but he looked more comfortable after the lunch break, splitting the Renaults in the standings.
Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne had contrasting fortunes for McLaren. The two-time champion backed up an impressive 7th in P1 with 6th in the second outing, but Vandoorne couldn’t match the Spaniard, having to settle for 19th in both sessions.
It was a frustrating P2 for Marcus Ericsson, who spent most of the second session in the garage after a gearbox issue, leaving him at the bottom of the standings, while teammate Charles Leclerc was 16th in both practice periods.
Williams showed signs of improvement in P1 as Sergey Sirotkin set the eighth quickest time while completing 28 laps – only Ocon did more, while Lance Stroll was 11th. Stroll complained in P2 that the car was undriveable, and found himself dropping to 14th, while Sirotkin was 17th at the end of the session. It was a similar story for Toro Rosso, with Pierre Gasly 9th and Brendon Hartley 12th in P1, before slipping back in the afternoon.
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