Verstappen leads Baku GP practice
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the sole practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after a car fire for Pierre Gasly truncated the hour by almost 15 minutes.
The Dutchman had only just taken top spot when Gasly’s Alpine started smoking on just his eighth tour of the Baku City Circuit, and before long flames were visible from the engine cover.
The Frenchman parked at the top of the hill at Turn 12 for marshals to douse his car in foam, but the extinguishers did little to stop the thick brown smoke billowing freely from the roll hoop airbox.
A nightmare start to Pierre Gasly's weekend 💔#AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/YjP6o73bnR
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 28, 2023
A red flag was called for the officials to bring the internal blaze under control and recover the car, which the team said had been set alight by a hydraulic leak.
The suspension was also opportune to collect Kevin Magnussen’s Haas car, which had stopped with a hydraulics failure of its own in the run-off zone at the first corner.
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It took around 13 minutes to get the session restarted, but it wasn’t until the final 10 minutes that teams broke out the soft tires.
Verstappen had been the comfortable leader on the medium tire, but early on the softs teammate Sergio Perez pipped him to the top spot before Charles Leclerc rotated into first place for Ferrari.
But a very late run on the red-marked rubber returned Verstappen to the top with a time of 1m42.315s, edging Leclerc by just 0.037s and Perez by 0.139s.
Carlos Sainz completed the top four for Ferrari, but the Spaniard was 0.584s adrift.
Red Bull Racing and Ferrari were the only teams to dip beneath 103 seconds around the 3.7-mile street track, but Lando Norris impressed with fifth in his updated McLaren. He was 0.81s off the pace to head the midfield ahead of a similarly impressive Nyck de Vries for AlphaTauri.
Aston Martin teammates Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso were closely matched in seventh and eighth respectively, but Alonso never used the soft tire, preferring instead to stick with mediums throughout the hour. He also suffered from a broken DRS that required repairs.
Alex Albon was ninth for Williams ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu.
Lewis Hamilton toiled to 11th for Mercedes. He also didn’t use the soft tire, and he was more preoccupied with brake problems around the high-speed circuit.
Oscar Piastri spent most of the session undertaking aero testing, with only his last 10 laps on softs being representative. He ended the hour 12th after nudging the barriers on the run down the hill.
Valtteri Bottas finished 13th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, whose session was undone in the opening minutes by a cracked right-rear wheel rim following contact with the barriers. The tire popped off the wheel, forcing him to complete most of the lap on the way back to the pits on three wheels. He carried significant bodywork and floor damage for the rest of the session as a result.
A collision with the wall results in a puncture for Yuki #AzerbaijanGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/YRdoMjubmx
— Formula 1 (@F1) April 28, 2023
Nico Hulkenberg was 15th for Haas ahead of Logan Sargeant and George Russell, the Mercedes driver also troubled by brake problems and eschewing the soft tire.
Alpine teammates Esteban Ocon and Gasly completed just 15 laps between them ahead of qualifying, Gasly due to his fire and Ocon as a precaution.
Magnussen wasn’t able to resume after his stoppage, leaving him last with eight laps.