Nato leads the way as Azerbaijan weekend begins

GP2 in Azerbaijan - Credit: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service

Championship leader Norman Nato led the way as the GP2 Series christened the all-new Baku Street Circuit on Friday morning.

The Frenchman topped the one and only free practice session the GP2 drivers will have ahead of qualifying as yellow flags and virtual safety cars interrupted the session on a number of occasions.

Nato set a best time of 1:55.394 for Racing Engineering to set the pace, with the Frenchman 0.325 seconds faster than Italian Antonio Giovinazzi of Prema Racing, while pre-season championship favourite Sergey Sirotkin, who needs a good result this weekend after two Feature race retirements so far this year, was third fastest for ART Grand Prix.

Red Bull-backed Pierre Gasly was fourth in the second of the Prema entries, with the Racing Steps Foundation-backed Oliver Rowland, fresh off his maiden GP2 Series podium finish in Monaco, fifth for MP Motorsport.

Luca Ghiotto was sixth for Trident ahead of Racing Engineering’s Jordan King, with Arthur Pic, Raffaele Marciello and Sergio Canamasas completing the top ten.

Canamasas caused the first virtual safety car after spinning at turn sixteen, while King had a scary-looking moment after being forced to get around a recovery vehicle that had been parked on the run-off at turn fifteen, with the virtual safety car being called again so that vehicle could be moved to a safer place.

Marciello and Philo Paz Armand would both end their sessions at turn fifteen after offs, the latter causing the third virtual safety car of the session, while Nobuharu Matsushita stopped on track at turn three.

Baku Street Circuit Free Practice Times

13Norman NatoFRARacing Engineering1:55.394
220Antonio GiovinazziITAPrema Racing1:55.719
32Sergey SirotkinRUSART Grand Prix1:56.093
421Pierre GaslyFRAPrema Racing1:56.464
522Oliver RowlandGBRMP Motorsport1:56.871
615Luca GhiottoITATrident1:57.059
74Jordan KingGBRRacing Engineering1:57.091
812Arthur PicFRARapax1:57.438
99Raffaele MarcielloITARussian Time1:57.464
1018Sergio CanamasasESPCarlin1:57.538
1119Marvin KirchhoferGERCarlin1:57.585
1210Artem MarkelovRUSRussian Time1:57.587
137Mitch EvansNZLCampos Racing1:57.799
146Nicholas LatifiCANDAMS1:58.397
151Nobuharu MatsushitaJAPART Grand Prix1:58.432
1611Gustav MaljaSWERapax1:58.808
175Alex LynnGBRDAMS1:59.723
1814Philo Paz ArmandINOTrident1:59.757
1925Jimmy ErikssonSWEArden International2:00.493
2024Nabil JeffriMAYArden International2:00.561
218Sean GelaelINOCampos Racing2:00.769
2223Daniel de JongNEDMP Motorsport2:01.794