Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen topped the times in the first practice session of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend, by four tenths of a second from team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, in what was a relatively routine FP1, until the final twenty minutes of the day.
The Dutchman set a time of 1:44.410 to take the top spot on a set of the super-soft tyres; ahead of team-mate Ricciardo, as Red Bull appeared far more racier on Friday. Whether they can maintain that advantage for the rest of the weekend however, is yet to be seen.
The drivers struggled in the low grip conditions for the majority of the session, which rumbled along without too many incidents until the final twenty minutes when Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez found himself in the barriers following a heavy shunt.
The incident delayed the final part of FP1, with just five minutes of running remaining when the session got back underway, leaving little chance for any improvements in the timings, which allowed red Bull to take their first one-two of the year.
Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was third on the soft tyre, ahead of crash-ee Perez in fourth. The Mexican ended the session early, after hitting the barrier hard at Turn 8, having clipped the kerb in what is one of the tightest sections on the track.
That speared Perez into the barrier, smashing off his right front and right rear tyres in the process, leaving his mechanics plenty to do ahead of FP2 later today. Perez himself walked away from the crash unharmed, but the VJM10 was extremely worse for wear!
The incident took place with just twenty minutes of the session remaining, and by the time the mess was cleared up and the Force India was removed, that left just five minutes remaining on the clock.
Luckily for the Mexican, the gearbox he was using was just a Friday gearbox and so no penalty will be served for changing it.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver Lewis Hamilton was down in fifth, after the team seemingly had problems in bringing him out on track without traffic in his way. The Brit was nine tenths down on Verstappen’s lead-time, but was on the soft compound tyre, and finished three tenths ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas who suffered from the same inconvenience, in sixth place.
Esteban Ocon was next up in seventh, a solid effort having never driven the Baku Street Circuit previously, and he was ahead of Williams Martini Racing driver Felipe Massa, who was really ragging the FW40 around the Azerbaijan track.
Kimi Raikkonen was 1.5 seconds off the pace in ninth, whilst Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat completed the top ten, having put in a strong final lap.
Rookie Lance Stroll, another Baku Street Circuit virgin, was an impressive eleventh and just seven-tenths off the pace of much more experienced team-mate Massa. The Canadian was one tenth clear of Haas F1 Team driver Kevin Magnussen, who is also competing at this circuit for the first time this weekend.
Team-mate Romain Grosjean was a tenth further back in thirteenth, but four tenths up on Renault Sport Formula 1 Team driver Nico Hulkenberg, the French team not having a particular encouraging session this morning.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team driver Stoffel Vandoorne was fifteenth, and the Belgian unfortunately already has a thirty-place grid penalty pending for the race, as he will receive a new MGU-H and internal combustion engine this weekend, both of which he has already used up his quota of this season.
Carlos Sainz Jr, who has a three place grid penalty to carry over from the Canadian Grand Prix, was next up in sixteenth place, ahead of fellow countryman Fernando Alonso, who will also receive grid penalties for the race on Sunday, for the same reasons as his team-mate.
Jolyon Palmer, who got the weekend off to a bad start with a rather abrupt interview with Jennie Gow of the BBC, when asked what he thought was causing his lack of performance so far this season, was eighteenth, having flat spotted both sets of tyres, leaving him with none left to put in a strong lap at the end of the session.
Sauber F1 Team drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson brought up the rear, as has been commonplace at almost every round of the season so far.
2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – FP1 Results