There were plenty of meetings with the wall and a mixed up result on Friday in Baku. Read all about it in Lights Out’s Practice Report!


Practice One

It was certainly a warm start to the day in the unique city of Baku, as F1 cars returned to the city streets. Lance Stroll’s FW40 had issues early on in the session. He complained of braking issues via team radio, saying that the pedal was ‘very soft’. He trawled back to the pits following his install lap.

Romain Grosjean was the first driver to run wide this weekend. He did so after a lock up at Turn Seven. The Haas drivers were first to set times on Friday morning, with the Frenchman leading Kevin Magnussen by half a second.

The low grip track meant that plenty of drivers were struggling to keep their cars on track. Felipe Massa made a mess of Turn One shortly after setting the session’s new fastest time, while Sebastian Vettel also narrowly avoided contact with the walls at Turn Sixteen after taking a little bit too much kerb. He made further errors at Turn Three and Turn Eight, opting to take the escape road on both of these occasions. Lewis Hamilton also had a near miss with the wall by running over the kerb at Turn One. Valtteri Bottas was next to spin at Turn Eleven – where Hamilton crashed in qualifying last year – but was lucky to escape without damaging his car. Bottas went on to make minor contact with the wall at Turn Fifteen, but once again got away with no damage.

Sergio Perez had a big crash at Turn Eight which brought out the Red Flag. The Mexican was unharmed in the impact which tore the right rear tyre from the car as it clattered through the tightest section of the track. It’s unusual to see a tyre completely ripped from a car and the FIA will surely take a keen interest in why that happened. The marshals took a while to remove the car from the track.

“First and foremost, I want to thank my mechanics and the whole team for fixing the car so quickly. They are some of the best guys in the pit lane and they showed exactly why. This morning was all about trying to find the limits, and I think we did – it was good it happened today rather than tomorrow. It was a bit of a messy day, not just with what happened in FP1 but also because of all the yellow and red flags breaking the flow of the sessions. I still think we are in a good position. Tonight we will need to work out the best set-up: I feel we have a good potential for the weekend, we just have to put it all together when it matters.”

The session resumed with six minutes remaining on the clock, but few drivers set a faster time. It was Red Bull who surprisingly ended the session on top, with Verstappen edging ahead of Daniel Ricciardo by half a second. Vettel was third, just under a tenth slower than his former team-mate. The Red Bulls set their times on the Super Soft tyres, whereas Vettel set his on Softs.

Full Result from Practice One:

  Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:44.410
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.470
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.557
4 Sergio Perez Force India +0.988
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.087
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +1.327
7 Esteban Ocon Force India +1.342
8 Felipe Massa Williams +1.558
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.590
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.207
11 Lance Stroll Williams +2.239
12 Kevin Magnussen Haas +2.311
13 Romain Grosjean Haas +2.427
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.807
15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren +3.063
16 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +3.091
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren +3.141
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault +4.115
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber +4.638
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +5.527

Practice Two

Sergio Perez was straight back into his car at the start of the afternoon session and headed out on track just ten minutes into the session. The Force India mechanics had done an impressive job to get the wrecked car repaired in around two hours.

Both Toro Rosso drivers made mistakes early on, with Daniil Kvyat needing help from the marshals in order to get his car pointing back in the right direction. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean continued to struggle with braking, as he had done in First Practice. He ran straight on at Turn Eight, exclaiming ‘ I cannot drive that!’ It was a frustrating afternoon for the Frenchman. 

“A frustrating afternoon – the feeling just wasn’t there. There’s not really much I can say, to be honest. I just had no feeling in the car. That’s obviously something that we need to look at a lot more depth as we’ve effectively lost a session heading into Saturday. Lots of work to do but, hopefully, we can focus and identify the issues and put it right.”

Vettel also ran straight on at Turn Eight, further highlighting how little grip there was around the track. Vettel later had to dodge debris on the track at Turn Fifteen. The debris came from Kvyat running along the barrier at Turn Fifteen. He took some of the Pirelli sticker off the barrier during his contact, leaving the sticker strewn across the track. A Virtual Safety Car was deployed while the debris was cleared away.

Red Bull once again set the early pace with Verstappen half a second quicker than the Mercedes of Hamilton. Force India were once again proving their pace, with Esteban Ocon sitting in fourth and Perez in fifth. The pair were split by just six hundredths of a second. Ocon came very close to scraping the wall on one of his fast laps while Perez once again scraped the wall at Turn Eight.

Turn Eight was proving to be difficult for plenty of drivers – at one point both Vettel and Felipe Massa found themselves both down the escape road at the same time. A Red Flag was brought out when Jolyon Palmer ended up in the wall at the same turn. He’s optimistic of having a better day tomorrow.

“It was pretty slippery out there and we struggled to get grip from the tyres. The car was feeling better in FP2 but I was caught out at turn eight which ended my day early. We had made progress between FP1 and FP2 and there’s more we can make for tomorrow. Thankfully there’s not too much damage to the car, so we’ll look to get it where we want it to be for qualifying.”

Alonso stopped on track with thirty minutes of the session remaining. He threw his headrest from the car and walked away looking far from impressed. The all new engine parts he had for the start of this weekend managed to cover just over 200 kilometres before giving up.

“I lost the last half hour of the second session, so I suppose tomorrow we’ll need to do some running on high fuel, to catch up with the programme.  We’ll have to start at the back of the grid anyway, so we’ll take things smoothly in qualifying.”

Lewis Hamilton was seen heading back to his drivers room with five minutes of the session remaining. He finished the session in tenth place, and had a hairy moment during the afternoon, having a near miss with Kimi Raikkonen at Turn One.

“It was a difficult day out there. 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.”

Verstappen crashed at Turn One at the very end of the session. He attempted to correct himself into the turn and spent his car slithering sideways into the wall. The rear suspension was completely destroyed in the impact, bringing a disappointing end to an otherwise positive day for Red Bull. Verstappen once again ended the session fastest.

“The whole day has been really positive, except the last lap, everything has been working well. 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.”

Full Result from Practice Two:

  Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:43.362
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.100
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.111
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.127
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.253
6 Lance Stroll Williams +0.751
7 Sergio Perez Force India +0.944
8 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +0.959
9 Esteban Ocon Force India +1.122
10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.163
11 Felipe Massa Williams +1.247
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren +2.153
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +2.371
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas +2.469
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +2.641
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault +2.699
17 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren +2.812
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber +3.788
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +3.985
20 Romain Grosjean Haas +4.360

Nicky Haldenby is a 23 year old Formula One blogger from Scarborough, North Yorkshire. Having grown up with F1 often on the TV on Sunday afternoons, Nicky has been following the sport avidly since 2006. He graduated from the University of Hull in 2015 with a First Class degree in English Language and Literature. He founded the Lights Out F1 Blog in March 2016.

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