FP2: Ricciardo fastest as Red Bull show Baku form
If you were unsure about Red Bull’s pace in Baku, FP2 should have certainly put those doubts to bed. The opening session saw Daniel Ricciardo narrowly trail Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes, but this time the Australian proved to be the pacesetter - though Kimi Raikkonen was hot on his heels less than a tenth of a second behind.
Having shown glimpses of his speed on the supersoft rubber in the day’s first session, Ricciardo was then given the chance to demonstrate his pace on Pirelli’s quickest ultrasoft tyres and he duly delivered – with Raikkonen trailing him in the Ferrari by 0.069s.
In a positive 90 minutes of running for Red Bull, Max Verstappen kept out of trouble following his FP1 crash to come home in third - although there were concerns for the team at the end of the session when the Dutchman had to limp back to his garage at low revs with a possible power issue.
Lewis Hamilton was surprisingly unable to get in an early clean lap, and the world champion eventually finished P5 with team mate Bottas one place ahead of him.
First practice had seen various drivers run wide – including Brendon Hartley and Hamilton – and it was a similar theme early on in this session, with Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel among those to underestimate the tricky corners around this street circuit.
Indeed, it took Vettel a while to get going. The German complained of poor rear grip in FP1 and appeared to endure similar difficulties this time around. Ferrari tested out various tactics, starting him on the supersofts, then trying the ultrasofts before returning to the former – and he ended the session in P11.
In the middle of the pack, the battle between Renault, McLaren, Haas and Force India looks set to continue this weekend. And Force India will take positives from Esteban Ocon’s P7 after a promising opening practice with Sergio Perez, who finished down in 12th this time.
Further down the field at Williams, Stroll was finding luck hard to come by. At the scene of his maiden podium finish, it could be a difficult weekend for the Canadian if his FP2 frustrations are anything to go by. He complained of an ‘undriveable car’, although his P14 suggests it isn’t all doom and gloom.
It was, however, a session to forget for Marcus Ericsson. He was sent back to his Sauber garage early on after a gearbox issue, and finished bottom of the pile.
So, it’s Red Bull who will be the happier of the teams heading into Saturday’s third and final practice, but they’ll no doubt keep their feet firmly on the ground - they dominated last year’s FP2 in Baku before trailing pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton in qualifying by 1.2s.
Plenty to look forward to then...