Verstappen fastest as Ricciardo finds form

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen has topped the opening practice session for the Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was less than half a tenth quicker than Charles Leclerc, while Daniel Ricciardo was fifth fastest.

The Australian topped the session midway through the 60-minute hit-out, and ended proceedings 0.2s clear of team-mate Lando Norris in eighth.

Ferrari set the early pace, with Leclerc and Carlos Sainz sitting atop the timings, the former with a 1:45.664s as the session began.

A Virtual Safety Car temporarily interrupted proceedings after 12 minutes as debris was cleared from the track by a marshal.

Predictably, Leclerc’s time didn’t stand, Norris and Lewis Hamilton both besting the Ferrari marker inside 15 minutes.

Hamilton improved his initial 1:45.112s to 1:43.893s on a set of soft compound tyres, well over a second clear of the field to that point.

Having been among the first out, Sergio Perez then spent a long stretch in the pits as Red Bull removed an aero testing kit from his car.

He finally rejoined the circuit with 32 minutes remaining.

A mistake from Yuki Tsunoda saw the AlphaTauri run deep at Turn 4, the Japanese driver struggling to engage reverse gear.

He’d bumped the wall on drivers’ left approaching the corner, skating into the escape road before taking an age to recover.

Eventually, he extricated himself and toured slowly back to the pits.

While Hamilton’s early time stood the test for the opening half of the 60-minute hit out, the field soon closed in.

Leclerc moved to just 0.028s back with 25 minutes remaining, with Norris also showing well.

Also demonstrating solid pace was Ricciardo, who soraed to the top of the timesheets with a 1:43.732s after going fastest of anyone to the first split.

Norris in the sister car looked poised to set an even better lap before losing control at Turn 16 – the left hander leading onto the long front straight.

Sainz deposed Ricciardo from top spot, quickly followed by Leclerc who went fastest with a 1:43.227s.

With 11 minutes left on the clock, Verstappen went fastest with a 1:43.184s, while Perez rose to fourth fastest moments later.

Three minutes from the end of the session, Nikita Mazepin slid off the road at Turn 15 before limping back to the pits.

The Haas driver lost the rear end and slid into the Tecpro barrier on corner exit.

Mick Schumacher had a moment soon after, replicating Tsunoda’s error at Turn 4 from earlier in the session.

Like the AlphaTauri driver, he struggled to rejoin the track, though did manage the feat somewhat more quickly than his Japanese counterpart managed.

Valtteri Bottas and Norris also had a moment, the pair going deep at Turn 2.

Bottas was able to complete a spin turn as the McLaren driver followed the Mercedes into the run off, though both were able to continue without drama.

It was a busy end to the session with Verstappen’s time leaving him quickest from a brace of Ferraris, Perez, and Ricciardo.

Hamilton was only seventh fastest and Bottas 10th for Mercedes, the former 0.7s down on the time managed by his championship rival.

Free Practice 2, another 60-minute session, begins at 22:00 AEST.

Results: Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Free Practice 1

Pos Num Driver Team Tim Diff Laps
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:43.184 19
2 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:43.227 +0.043s 20
3 55 Carlos Sainz FERRARI 1:43.521 +0.337s 20
4 11 Sergio Perez RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:43.630 +0.446s 17
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:43.732 +0.548s 25
6 10 Pierre Gasly ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:43.757 +0.573s 23
7 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:43.893 +0.709s 20
8 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN MERCEDES 1:43.996 +0.812s 20
9 14 Fernando Alonso ALPINE RENAULT 1:44.777 +1.593s 25
10 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:44.891 +1.707s 20
11 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:44.943 +1.759s 18
12 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:45.092 +1.908s 20
13 18 Lance Stroll ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 1:45.234 +2.050s 23
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda ALPHATAURI HONDA 1:45.384 +2.200s 25
15 5 Sebastian Vettel ASTON MARTIN MERCEDES 1:45.415 +2.231s 24
16 31 Esteban Ocon ALPINE RENAULT 1:45.446 +2.262s 23
17 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:45.452 +2.268s 24
18 6 Nicholas Latifi WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:45.774 +2.590s 22
19 47 Mick Schumacher HAAS FERRARI 1:46.899 +3.715s 20
20 9 Nikita Mazepin HAAS FERRARI 1:46.945 +3.761s 18

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