• December 10, 2023

Max Verstappen fastest in Azerbaijan Grand Prix first practice

The text and audio commentary of the second training session is live on the BBC Sport website

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led a tight and unrepresentative first practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in front of the Ferrari drivers.

Verstappen, who leads Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton by four points in the championship, was 0.043 seconds faster than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz was third fastest, 0.294 seconds behind his Ferrari team-mate, ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez.

Hamilton was behind in seventh place but made a mistake on a faster lap.

And Lando Norris seemed to have the potential to lead the session, the McLaren driver on a very fast lap before turning at Turn 16.

At that time, Norris was in second place ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who had just finished fastest with a lap that put him fifth overall at the end of the session, 0.5 seconds behind Verstappen’s best time.

Alpha Tauris’ Pierre Gasly separated Ricciardo and Hamilton in fifth place.

Hamilton and Norris were just two of several drivers who drove away on the slippery streets of Baku. Valtteri Bottas’s second Mercedes joined them, Gasly as well as team-mate Yuki Tsunoda and Haas drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.

Tsunoda’s incident caused a brief comedy moment. Instead of turning the car, the traditional method of breaking free of an escape route in Baku, he tried to make a three-point turn.

But an F1 car doesn’t have the steering lock for it, and the Japanese spent minutes jumping back and forth while Race Director Michael Masi set warning flags.

It got the Alpha Tauri sports director to go on the radio and apologize to Masi. He said, “He’s doing an Austin Powers right now,” a nod to the famous movie in which actor Mike Myers is doing a multi-point comedy in a buggy in a narrow corridor.

The number of incidents made the competition rules difficult to read.

McLaren seemed very competitive – as Verstappen and Sainz suggested after the last race in Monaco, calling their car a “rocket”. And Hamilton was clearly at a faster pace than the schedules suggested.

Behind Hamilton, Norris, Fernando Alonso from Alpine and Valtteri Bottas from Mercedes completed the top 10.


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