FP1: Verstappen leads Leclerc and Perez in action-packed practice session in Baku
Max Verstappen topped the timesheets in an eventful first – and only – practice session of the weekend in Baku, with the Dutch racer leading the way ahead of Charles Leclerc and team mate Sergio Perez, in preparation for today's Grand Prix qualifying.
With just one 60-minute session available to get to grips with the Baku City Circuit under the new Sprint format, the drivers showed their intention was to maximise every second of FP1. Led by Verstappen, they majority of the cars lined up at the pit exit waiting for the light to turn green at the start of the session.
While Verstappen set the early pace on the medium tyre, ahead of Perez and Leclerc, it was not good news for AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, who hit the barrier at Turn 3 and suffered a right-rear puncture, forcing him to pit.
Moments later, the red flags were waved due to Pierre Gasly’s Alpine catching fire because of a hydraulic issue, with the French driver forced to stop on track. Meanwhile, at the same time, Kevin Magnussen stopped at Turn 1 with a suspected fuel pressure problem.
FORMULA 1 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 1 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:42.315|
|2 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari||+0.037s|
|3 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.139s|
|4 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari||+0.584s|
|5 Lando Norris NOR McLaren||+0.810s|
Upon resumption, Verstappen once again led all the drivers out on to the track, except for Esteban Ocon, who did not make an appearance for the rest of the session as his team carried out precautionary checks, bringing an end to a torrid first practice for Alpine.
As the drivers switched from the harder compounds to the soft tyres for some qualifying simulation runs, it was Verstappen who left it until his last lap of the session to go fastest, with a time of 1m 42.315s to lead Leclerc, in second, by just 0.037s.
Perez was third fastest ahead of the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – who made slight contact with the barrier at Turn 5 – with Lando Norris showcasing the pace of the upgraded McLaren MCL60 to round out the top five.
Nyck de Vries – one of two drivers on the grid alongside Logan Sargeant yet to score a point – was sixth fastest for AlphaTauri, ahead of the Aston Martin pair of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso.
Alex Albon was ninth fastest for Williams, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu and 11th-placed Lewis Hamilton – who recovered from a brake issue on his Mercedes W14 that forced him to pit early in the session.
Oscar Piastri – who spent much of the session testing new parts for McLaren – was 12th, ahead of 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas, in the other Alfa Romeo, and the AlphaTauri of Tsunoda.
Nico Hulkenberg was 15th fastest for Haas, ahead of Williams’ Logan Sargeant and Mercedes' George Russell – who, like his team mate Hamilton, did not set a fast time on the soft tyre.
Down at the bottom were the three drivers whose sessions ended early, with Ocon and Gasly in 18th and 19th, respectively, while Magnussen was last.
Join us again for qualifying for Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix at 1700 local time on Friday evening.