Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Verstappen leads the Ferraris as practice begins in Baku

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix first practice

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Monaco Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen got his weekend at the Baku City Circuit off to a promising start by leading the first practice session.

Ferrari had downplayed their chances at Baku due to its long straights. But both cars looked quick, Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc exchanging the fastest time for much of the session despite Sainz complaining early on about brake vibrations.

Lewis Hamilton took the fastest time around the session’s halfway point, seeming much more comfortable than team mate Valtteri Bottas who never broke into the top five times. George Russell showed a surprising turn of pace in his Williams early on, who briefly running in fourth during drivers’ mid-session soft tyre runs.

The McLaren drivers also looked quick. Lando Norris initially split Hamilton and Verstappen at the top of the times. However Daniel Ricciardo set their best lap, briefly assuming the top time and looking much more confident in the car than he did in Monaco.

Norris could have been fastest overall, with a lap that set the best times in sectors one and two and saw him nearly a second up on Ricciardo into turn 16, however, he was caught out on the kerb and spun.

Pierre Gasly once again put together a very competitive session, finishing faster than both Mercedes drivers, while Alfa Romeo looked best of the lower half of the grid, Raikkonen only slightly less than six hundredths off the top 10.

Despite heading the times, the Red Bull drivers encountered some frustrations. Sergio Perez only began to set competitive times in the final 20 minutes and Verstappen was repeatedly frustrated by traffic, including an incident behind Nikita Mazepin. “Unbelievable, just unbelievable,” Verstappen fumed on the radio, “he just stays in front, weaving even.”

There were no major incidents during the session, despite several drivers visiting runoff areas. Yuki Tsunoda went off at turn four and struggled to manoeuvre his AlphaTauri car out, having to attempt a multiple-point turn in an F1 car for the first time. Mick Schumacher had a similar struggle later in the session but both were able to get going and return to running.

Mazepin had a spin similar to Norris’ at turn 16 in the final two minutes of the session, however, did not escape as unscathed. He hit the rear of his Haas against the wall, making the limp back to the pits through one of the highest-speed sections of the track considerably more awkward.

A final run-off inspection was carried out at turn two by Bottas and Norris, who followed each other in and had to politely leave each other space to spin-turn out and run to the chequered flag.

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Report to follow

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
133Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’43.18419
216Charles LeclercFerrari1’43.2270.04320
355Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’43.5210.33720
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’43.6300.44617
53Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’43.7320.54824
610Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’43.7570.57323
744Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’43.8930.70919
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’43.9960.81220
977Valtteri BottasMercedes1’44.8911.70720
107Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’44.9431.75918
1114Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’45.0841.90024
1299Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’45.0921.90820
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’45.2342.05022
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’45.3842.20025
155Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’45.4152.23123
1631Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’45.4462.26223
1763George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’45.4522.26823
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’45.7742.59021
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’46.8993.71520
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’46.9453.76118

First practice visual gaps

Max Verstappen – 1’43.184

+0.043 Charles Leclerc – 1’43.227

+0.337 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’43.521

+0.446 Sergio Perez – 1’43.630

+0.548 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’43.732

+0.573 Pierre Gasly – 1’43.757

+0.709 Lewis Hamilton – 1’43.893

+0.812 Lando Norris – 1’43.996

+1.707 Valtteri Bottas – 1’44.891

+1.759 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’44.943

+1.900 Fernando Alonso – 1’45.084

+1.908 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’45.092

+2.050 Lance Stroll – 1’45.234

+2.200 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’45.384

+2.231 Sebastian Vettel – 1’45.415

+2.262 Esteban Ocon – 1’45.446

+2.268 George Russell – 1’45.452

+2.590 Nicholas Latifi – 1’45.774

+3.715 Mick Schumacher – 1’46.899

+3.761 Nikita Mazepin – 1’46.945

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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15 comments on “Verstappen leads the Ferraris as practice begins in Baku”

  1. 5 teams within 1s, that’s interesting.
    Merc behind RBR and FER again? Does anyone know the tires used? I didn’t watch the session.

    1. Lots of aborted laps at the end of the session due to numerous yellows. Max looked the fastest and most planted; although Ham had to abort his final three runs.

  2. Early days, but perhaps Ferrari’s speed wasnt a one-off for Monaco after all.

  3. Mercs were on medium compounds and didn’t have clean laps.

    1. They started the session on softs, and were fast, but track evolution meant that counted only a little at the end I’d say @icarby, though yes, after that they did medium running. But, unlike Monaco, car looked good so would expect them to be near the top or at it in Q3.

      1. @bosyber – totally agree, was really a response to @jefferyj but I expect fireworks in qualifying. Would be very surprised if Mercs weren’t competitive this weekend.

        1. They will definitely be up there with Verstappen (and hopefully Perez) come qualifying, but they need to get clean laps in Q3, because Ferrari & McLaren are close enough to punish them, if Mercedes (either team or drivers) get it wrong.

          1. @icarby @srga91 have to say that after seeing that FP2, I’m not going to put them on pole nor for the win (though I’d wait to see what FP3 brings before I commit I guess).

            Merc. this weekend do look to have a bit of a similar issue as in Monaco, only here, ramping up tyre heating to make quali work will probably mean them moving backwards in the race (bit like what Ferrari do seem to have in general?). They might have an advantage with tires lasting, but if Hamilton starts way down, well. I mean, Bottas has been good at this track (but not lucky), but against Verstappen and Perez, with maybe Ferrari around too, I just can’t see him winning.

  4. I noticed that Norris was a second up on Ricciardo towards the end of the lap – suggests there’s a nice turn of pace in that Mclaren this weekend, maybe it is a rocketship!

    1. Sorry I meant to say here “before his spin towards the end of the lap”.

    1. Half donut practice? Important I’d say…

    2. Ahaha, fun indeed!

  5. Pretty much what was to be expected, except that McLaren are already up there in FP1 (they tend to run more fuel and lower engine modes on Friday, but didn’t seem like it this morning).
    Mercedes doing their usual sandbagging, Verstappen on top and Ferrari in the mix as well.

    McLaren do really look strong here, especially in S3. Their low-drag design works amazingly on these long straights. Depending on how much they loose through the tight and twisty S2, they might even get pole, if they get the slipstreaming right in Q3.
    Mercedes and RB won’t have much room for errors this weekend, because McLaren & Ferrari are close enough to punish them, if something was to go wrong on Saturday.

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