Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Baku City Circuit, 2023

Verstappen pips Leclerc in sole Baku practice as fault halts Alpine pair

2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix first practice

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Max Verstappen put Red Bull just ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during the only practice session of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.

The reigning champion’s best time of a 1’42.315 was less than half a tenth quicker than Leclerc’s, with Sergio Perez third ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr. Both Alpine drivers were halted after a fire for Pierre Gasly led to an investigation on his team mate’s car with a suspected hydraulic problem the culprit.

With only a single hour of practice, teams rushed out to try and make the most of the highlight limited track time that they had available. Thankfully, the skies over Baku were clear and sunny, giving drivers the best possible conditions in which to take to the circuit for their only practice of the weekend.

The freshly relaid asphalt around the circuit offered little grip as teams ventured out for the first time. George Russell was quick to complain about the slippery surface, while his Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton also came on the radio to complain about brake-by-wire troubles on his car.

Carlos Sainz Jnr clipped the inside barrier on the apex of turn five, taking a large chunk out of the painted barrier, but apparently not causing any damage to his Ferrari. However Yuki Tsunoda was not so fortunate when he spun rounding turn three, clipping the wall with his right-rear wheel. The contact tore the tyre from the rim, but Tsunoda managed to slowly recover back to the pits.

Just after 15 minutes into the session, Gasly developed a small fire at the rear of his Alpine, causing smoke to rise from the car. While he tried to recover to the pits, he eventually was told to stop on track at turn 12, bringing out the red flags as his Alpine began smoking with ever greater intensity. At the same time, Kevin Magnussen also came to a stop at the first corner after locking up his Haas under braking and having to bail out of the corner to avoid the barrier.

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After Gasly’s car was extinguished and recovered, Alpine began to strip down Ocon’s car as a precaution due to a suspected hydraulic problem, signalling the end of their session. Practice eventually restarted with over half an hour remaining, with Verstappen on top of the times ahead of Red Bull team mate Perez.

Leclerc briefly brought out the yellow flags after locking up into turn seven and grinding to a halt short of the barriers. After quickly activating reverse gear in his Ferrari, Leclerc managed to pull back out and continue on his way. After returning to the circuit for a later run, Leclerc suffered a similar lock-up, this time at turn two.

In the closing minutes, teams prepared for qualifying simulation runs ahead of the afternoon’s qualifying session. Perez improved on the soft tyres to go quickest of all, two tenths faster than his team mate, while Leclerc also moved second, a tenth of a second faster than the championship leader.

Perez shaved half a tenth off his own best time, before Leclerc beat Perez by a quarter of a second to put his Ferrari fastest. When the chequered flag signalled the end of the session, Verstappen improved on his final lap to pip Leclerc to the fastest time by less than half a tenth of a second. That put the Red Bull fastest to completed the session, ahead of Leclerc, Perez and Sainz in fourth.

Lando Norris was fifth for McLaren, giving them some encouragement following the introduction of their upgrade package. Nyck de Vries took sixth ahead of the two Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso. Alexander Albon and Zhou Guanyu rounded out the top ten.

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix first practice result

11Max VerstappenRed BullRB191’42.31522
216Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’42.3520.03721
311Sergio PerezRed BullRB191’42.4540.13922
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’42.8990.58423
54Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’43.1250.81022
621Nyck de VriesAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’43.4141.09924
718Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.4551.14023
814Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’43.5601.24520
923Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’43.6281.31325
1024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’43.7481.43323
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’43.7981.48321
1281Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’43.9801.66523
1377Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’44.0101.69523
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red BullAT041’44.1371.82218
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’44.3232.00821
162Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’44.9002.58516
1763George RussellMercedesW141’45.0822.76720
1831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’45.9553.6408
1910Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’46.3214.0067
2020Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’47.4985.1838

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2023 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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    4 comments on “Verstappen pips Leclerc in sole Baku practice as fault halts Alpine pair”

    1. I was surprised about the amount of drama in a practice session.

    2. Bad news for the other teams as Verstappen is told by Lambiase, Max no risks it is just a training.

    3. Alpine apparently claiming they would join the fight with the Ferraris, Mercs and Astons with this update, but who wants to bet they are going to be both out in Q1?
      It seems more likely then they actually improving…

    Comments are closed.