Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas took top spot in the first practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but there were problems for Red Bull Racing as Max Verstappen crashed.
The Dutch driver led the way in the opening half an hour of the session, setting the pace with a time in the mid-1m45s bracket. That left him marginally clear of Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, as the Renault-powered team began the weekend brightly.
The outlook darkened soon afterwards, however, as Verstappen lost control on the approach to Turn 5 and slid into the barriers, causing damage to the back of his RB14. The VSC was called into action for some 10 minutes, as Verstappen’s car was removed from the track.
When meaningful running resumed, Mercedes moved its drivers to the ultrasoft compound Pirelli tyres and Lewis Hamilton took over in P1. His stay at the top of the order didn’t last long, however, as Ricciardo, sticking with the supersoft compound he had run earlier in the session sneaked ahead of the defending champion.
Bottas was waiting in the wings, however, and his run on ultrasofts yielded a time of 1:44.242 that vaulted him to the top of the timesheet.
The lap was good enough to keep the Finn at the top of the order until the end of the session, though Ricciardo, still using supersofts, made a marginal improvement late on to post a best time of 1:44.277, 0.035 behind the Mercedes man.
Behind Ricciardo, Force India’s Sergio Perez, who finished on the podium in the first race held at the NBaku City Circuit in 2016, took third place with a time of 1:45.075. Hamilton’s best time of 1:45.200 left him in fourth place and a good morning for Force India was completed by Esteban Ocon rounding out the top five 0.995 behind Bottas.
The Frenchman was the last man within a second of Bottas, with Verstappen 1.3s off the pace in sixth place. Fernando Alonso was seventh for McLaren ahead of Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin and the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly.
The top 10 order was completed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, whose time of 1:46.513 left him 2.271 adrift of Bottas. Neither Vettel nor team-mate Kimi Räikkönen set a representative time during the session, however, with Räikkönen ending the session in P15.
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 26 1:44.242
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 24 1:44.277 0.035
3 Sergio Perez Force India 26 1:45.075 0.833
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 24 1:45.200 0.958
5 Esteban Ocon Force India 29 1:45.237 0.995
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 11 1:45.559 1.317
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren 25 1:46.465 2.223
8 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 28 1:46.480 2.238
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 18 1:46.492 2.250
10 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 18 1:46.513 2.271
11 Lance Stroll Williams 26 1:46.590 2.348
12 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 32 1:46.747 2.505
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 11 1:46.749 2.507
14 Romain Grosjean Haas 23 1:46.856 2.614
15 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 10 1:46.861 2.619
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber 21 1:46.875 2.633
17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 21 1:47.073 2.831
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas 18 1:47.434 3.192
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 21 1:47.967 3.725
20 Carlos Sainz Renault 11 1:48.741 4.499