What the teams said - Friday in Azerbaijan
With the Ferrari pair the only drivers to set a time in the brief first practice session, the representative FP2 was the one to watch and it was Leclerc who came out on top, three-tenths ahead of his team mate. The Monegasque driver was scrappy at times, riding his luck in clipping the wall but fast with it. Can he carry that speed into tomorrow, or will Vettel find a turn of pace to grab another pole here in Baku?
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:47.497, P2; FP2: 1:43.196, P2
"It was a rather complicated Friday, because we weren’t able to do much running and the track was slippery and dusty. But it was fun all the same. So it took a while to get into a rhythm but overall I feel comfortable with the car. Maybe tomorrow we should be able to get a better idea of where we stand, because while I felt good in the car, there’s definitely still room for improvement. Tomorrow, we will continue working as it’s vital to get into a rhythm and have a good feel for the car and be totally confident about the track. I think qualifying will be very close, because I imagine our rivals will be very fast tomorrow."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:49.598, P1; FP2: 1:42.872, P1
“After a day like today, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of where we all stand, especially in terms of long run pace, when I think traffic was a factor. In qualifying trim, I felt comfortable, but also in this aspect, we will have to wait until tomorrow to get a clearer picture. However, we still have quite a bit of work to do to get the maximum out of the SF90 and that’s what we will concentrate on in the final free practice session. If we manage that, then we can be competitive.”
Not a trouble-free day for the Silver Arrows, with both drivers falling foul of the dusty track and needing the run-off areas to save their blushes. When on track, they looked solid, albeit seven-tenths of a second back from their Ferrari rivals. Can they find that time overnight? As the track rubbers in tomorrow possibly – although they will need some clean air and a slice of luck. Hamilton nearly collided with Magnussen’s Haas in the closing stages, showing that anything can happen at this unpredictable track.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:43.541, P3
"It’s been a bit of an odd day, but I still enjoyed it. FP2 went really well, I was feeling good out there and I was more comfortable in the car than I was last year. However, the Ferraris are clearly very quick and it looks like they’re quite a bit ahead of us, so we’ll need to investigate to see where we are losing time compared to them. It’s unlikely that we will find seven tenths over night, but we’ll do everything we can to push the car in the right direction. Our long run pace looked a little bit stronger than our short run pace, so we’ll need to try and find out why. It should be a good fight tomorrow; I’m always down for a fight and I think that’ s what the fans want to see, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.003, P5
"It’s been a fairly disrupted day which made FP2 more important than usual. We tried to maximise the time on track, adding a few more laps to our original plan for the afternoon after FP1 was suspended. I’m not really pleased with the laps I did, but it’s always a bit tricky to find the rhythm in Baku and it takes a bit of time. It wasn’t easy to get the Medium compound up to the right temperatures today, but corner speeds will increase due to track evolution, so we should be able to get a bit more energy into the tyres tomorrow. Our long runs felt good and the pace didn’t look too bad either, but we are a bit behind on single lap pace. Ferrari looked really strong, particularly on the short runs, so it will be a tough fight tomorrow."
James Allison, Technical Director
"This isn’t an easy track at the best of times, but made more complex by losing the whole of FP1. Nevertheless, FP2 went smoothly; we managed to get a good look at both tyres and a quick check of rear wing level as well with Lewis. We’re not where we need to be lap for the single lap work, but looked reasonably paced for the longer runs. So we have a bit of work to do overnight to tidy up the handling to give the drivers the confidence to really smash it around the lap and then hopefully we’ll have a good weekend."
Verstappen complained of issues with downshifting late on, which took the gloss off a solid performance from the Dutchman. He wound up fourth, while Gasly could only manage P9. The Frenchman nearly had a big moment, running wide at Turn 3 and almost collecting Grosjean who was reversing out having done the same thing. Luckily both escaped unscathed, but will be wary of similar incidents tomorrow. Gasly later transgressed, missing a call to go to the weigh bridge and is required to start from the pit lane on Sunday as a result.
Max Verstappen - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:43.793, P4
“The lack of running this morning didn’t really hurt us as it was the same for everyone and FP2 is always the most important session on a Friday. The track is very slippery and as you could see it was very easy to lock up or run wide, so it was important to complete as many laps as possible and get used to the track conditions. You have to drive to the limit of the car with the grip you have and you build up lap by lap, especially on a low grip street track like this, and you have to be ready to adapt. I’m satisfied with what we achieved today and now we will look into the data as there are always areas to improve, but it is mostly fine tuning. We don’t really have expectations for tomorrow yet and with only one practice session everyone can still improve a lot, but the initial balance seems fine and we completed a good number of laps on both tyre compounds.”
Pierre Gasly - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.240, P9
“In the short runs, the laps were a bit messy but I think we have good potential if we manage to put everything together. With the high fuel, I’m feeling better and I’m pretty happy with the long runs. Of course we would have liked to run in FP1 but I think we managed to do everything we wanted to in FP2. We ran quite a lot of tests and we have a good direction for tomorrow. We know we have some performance so I’m pretty positive. With the braking, it was a bit tricky and I had to take the escape road a couple of times because I was finding the limit. The car is getting better all the time and I’m happy with the feeling I’m getting from it. Ferrari seemed quite a lot faster today but we’ll see what we can do in qualifying tomorrow and like I say, we have a good race car so this is positive.”
Stroll started the red flags in FP2, after losing his RP19 into Turn 2 and colliding with the barriers, breaking his suspension in the process. That ended his session after just eight laps, and the Canadian will be lacking in crucial track time as a result heading into tomorrow. Perez managed a full programme for the team, but in the ever competitive midfield, struggled to make an impression on the top 10.
Sergio Perez – FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:45.436, P13
“It has been a difficult day after losing valuable track time in FP1. I had a big lockup in FP2 with my tyres which also hurt me a bit, but other than that I am pleased with the progress we made through the session. Hopefully tonight we can find a couple of tenths that will put us in the fight tomorrow. We put a good amount of laps on the board, which is important around this circuit: you need as much mileage as possible to build your confidence as the weekend progresses. I was not as confident straight away as in other years around here, but I think we can improve a lot tomorrow. The key for qualifying will be to keep building up your feeling with the car and to improve our balance. We’ve got a bit of that confidence on the long runs already but we need that on a single lap too. Other cars are very competitive around here, but we will try our best.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:47.875, P18
“It’s been a tough start to the weekend, we lost track time this morning but it was the same for everybody. FP2 had started better: I felt a good rhythm with the car in the laps I did this afternoon, but I had a snap on entry coming into turn two, the rear came out on me and that was that, I ended up in the wall. It’s frustrating, but it is what it is. The team did their best to get the car back out on track for the end of the session, but we just missed out by the smallest of margins. We will look at the data we have overnight and focus on getting as many laps as we can tomorrow and take it from there.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It wasn’t the most straightforward Friday, with limited running compared to what we had originally planned. Obviously, everyone missed out on most of FP1 after the session was red flagged and abandoned. In FP2, Lance was caught out in turn two, as were many others; he tried to abort the lap but unfortunately clipped the barriers. We worked hard to get the car back out on track before the end of the session, but missed out by a matter of seconds. Sergio struggled with low grip at first, mostly due to the very slippery track we always see here early in the weekend. However, we steadily improved the car throughout the session and by the time we got to the long runs, at the end of the programme, he had a bit more confidence. We have a good understanding of the available tyre compounds, but there’s still plenty of work to do to make up the lost time and be in shape ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Ricciardo had two big moments, which resulted in him flat spotting his two sets of tyres designated for this session. With the rubber undriveable, the Aussie was forced to sit out the remainder of the session which was far from ideal. That left Hulkenberg to fly the Renault flag, and despite losing what appeared to be a chunk of his brake light, put in a decent quota of laps to gather much-needed data for the team.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:46.717, P17
“It was a shame we didn’t get as much running in as planned today, but that’s the same for all teams with the circuit damage in FP1 and a couple of red flags in FP2. The second session didn’t go well for us, and we were struggling with things like tyre warm-up, downforce level and braking stability. That made it challenging, but we’ll put our heads together overnight and find some fixes for tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:45.483, P15
“Today was a little bit stop-start. In the second session, I had one clean lap which wasn’t too bad at the time. We had two brake lock-ups on two sets of tyres which resulted in two big flat spots. We couldn’t continue after that. We have a few things to sort out ahead of tomorrow, especially trying to get the car happier on the brakes.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director
“It was a bit of a disjointed day. We had no representative running in FP1 and then in FP2 we struggled with the car not having enough grip. We couldn’t get the tyres to work how we’d like, so we have a bit of work to do overnight. We’re probably not running enough downforce, and that’s something we will assess. Track conditions were dusty, which is why it’s been particularly hard running a low downforce setting. We don’t have too many issues with the car and we’re confident we can make things better tomorrow.”
Kvyat celebrated his 25th birthday in style, by crashing and setting fire to his brakes in second practice, bringing out the red flags. The Russian was trying to make up for lost time after sitting out much of the session with steering issues, and had looked quick up until that point. Albon kept out of trouble and looked in decent form once more, and with a Honda upgrade this weekend, could be in with a shout of ‘best of the rest’.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.177, P6
“It was quite a strange day, there was no running in FP1 besides an installation lap, then in FP2 something happened with the steering wheel, so we had to take a break to fix it. This meant we lost some important running and, consequently, I had to find the limits of the track very quickly on my next run. Unfortunately, I locked up and had an oversteer moment which led to some contact with the wall. On the positive side, the feeling of the car was very good before the accident, so we’ll keep pushing to improve even further tomorrow.”
Alex Albon - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.216, P8
“There was only one practice session today, but I think it was the right choice considering the safety risks. The car was quick straight away going into FP2. We did a good job preparing the car and we managed to put in some fast laps before moving to the high-fuel run, so it’s all looking good at the moment. We just need to fine-tune the car and I feel I’ve got more time to gain once I get to know the track better in a Formula 1 car.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“There is not much to report on FP1 after the Williams sucked up a lose drain cover, severely damaging their car and causing the session to be cancelled due to the necessary checks to the remainder of the circuit. Because of that, we had to compress two sessions worth of practice into FP2, which meant a very busy early evening session. This is the smoothest track of the season with low tyre energy which, combined with a very dirty and dusty track to start, meant the track improvement was extremely high and made it incredibly easy to lock the front tyres.
"On Alex’s car, everything went to plan throughout the second session and we completed the programme, but extended low fuel runs on the Prime followed by the Option. Alex was very happy with the balance straight out of the box, so we didn’t need to make any big changes to the car. The short run pace – something we have been working hard on to improve – also looked quite promising. Moving to the high fuel runs, he started on the Option tyres before fitting the Prime under the second Red Flag – graining didn’t appear to be a big issue on the Option and the Prime tyre seemed quite robust. Given there was two Red Flags, we didn’t get as much long running as we would have liked, but from the limited data we gathered the car looks to be working well on high fuel load too.
"As for Daniil, he had a much trickier FP2: on his baseline run he reported he felt the steering wheel to be harder than usual, so we decided to change the power steering. This meant he lost his first new tyre run, leaving his only new Option tyre run of the day - which is the most important run of Friday - as his first proper lap of the weekend. He got up to speed very quickly and was looking very fast, the sixth quickest car of the day, but unfortunately had a front-lock entering Turn 7 and lost the car on exit, hitting the wall and bringing out the Red Flag. Although he didn’t get as much running as he would like, we remain positive for the rest of the weekend given the balance and pace of the car.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Today, as planned, we ran new Spec 2 PUs on all four of our cars. It was a reasonably productive Friday, apart from the fact we acquired less data than we would have liked, due to the very limited running in FP1, but the conditions are the same for all teams. The Baku circuit, with its long straight and tight sections is an interesting challenge for the PU, especially in terms of engine management and getting the right chassis set-up is also a complex task. Today we worked through a programme to find the best settings to ensure we get the most out of the PU for qualifying and the race. Apart from our usual Friday evening work, we will be taking a close look at all the PU components on Kvyat’s car to check for damage following his crash in FP2.”
Grosjean struggled for grip, running wide at numerous points on the circuit and winding up a disappointing P16. At least his tribulations were – mostly – solitary, with the same not being said for his team mate. Magnussen appeared to cut across Hamilton in the closing stages of FP2, turning in on the Mercedes and causing sparks to fly both literally and metaphorically.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:45.618, P16
“It’s always challenging in Baku. I didn’t quite get the confidence in the car that I wanted, so there’s work to be done for tomorrow. The track was quite dirty as well, so all-in-all it’s quite complicated. It’s a good challenge, but it would have been nice to get a two-hour session and an extra set of tyres for this afternoon, it would have helped us get a bit more running and more understanding. I’m looking forward to tomorrow, especially qualifying, and then as always the race on Sunday. We’re working in the right direction.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.901, P11
“Lots of yellow and red flags – as usual here in Baku, but we didn’t cause any of them. For us it was a smooth as it could get, it wasn’t too bad of a Friday. Unfortunately our long run was not so long, but we got a feeling for what was happening on the soft tires. There was lots of graining on that tyre, so that won’t be easy for the race. I’m sure the graining will get better once the grip on-track increases, but by how much is the big question. I didn’t really get a feeling for the medium tyres. We need to see how it’ll go on Sunday I guess. Maybe we can try something tomorrow in FP3. The overall car balance wasn’t too bad, it felt okay, but we’ll see if we can find some more for Saturday.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a very strange day today. We didn’t get to run FP1 for the obvious reason – with the manhole cover. FP2 was then littered with a lot of red flags. We need to go through a lot of data to see what we can learn out of it. I wouldn’t call it a lottery, but I don’t think there’s a clear set pattern for tomorrow – like we’re used to seeing from other Friday’s. I don’t really know where we are at the moment.”
It was a quiet but productive day for McLaren, with both drivers able to complete their full programme. Sainz impressed, going fifth at one stage before being bumped down as the track improved but with both drivers finishing in the top 10, it certainly looks like McLaren could be in the hunt for Q3 berths tomorrow.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.183, P7
“It was a bit of a hectic session – as we all expected after missing FP1. I think everyone wanted to be out there for as much time as possible, including us. We tried to do as many laps as we could even though there were quite a lot of yellow flags, as always in Baku, and it was difficult to warm up the tyres.
“A challenging session but we didn’t come out of it too disappointed. Still a lot of work to do tomorrow, I think. I’m far away from being comfortable here with the car, so we need to see what we can do.”
Lando Norris - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:44.295, P10
“Overall it wasn’t as long a day, or as action-packed, as I was hoping but we still made the most of it. There was a lot of track development through the second session because it was pretty much FP1. Although the F2 cars had been running, the track was improving a lot – but still very dusty, very slippery and quite difficult to drive.
“Given the lost time, we made good choices when prioritising the things we needed to test and it was a very busy session in terms of the amount of laps we fitted in. I think it was still a positive day for us, but tomorrow’s another day.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director
“We knew coming to Baku that there would likely be disruptions in terms of incidents, but obviously today was quite exceptional with one session cancelled, two red flags and plenty of yellow flags.
“Despite this, we were able to go through our programme, which included testing some upgrades, finding a good balance in the car, understanding the tyres and also getting the drivers comfortable at a track that is very demanding with the proximity of the walls and the high speeds that the cars reach at the end of the straights.
“Overall, despite the disruption of the session, it was as relatively positive day, and we hope to confirm this during the rest of the weekend."
Giovinazzi is hampered by a grid penalty this weekend, and was used by the team to gather aero data, running flow-vis paint at times today. He tested the aero flow in numerous run-off areas too, just to be thorough. Raikkonen kept his head down and completed 30 laps in FP2, and looks to be there or thereabouts the top 10 once more.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:45.482, P14
“Obviously it was far from ideal for everybody and we looked like amateurs here today. It should not be like this. It's up to the FIA to make sure that the track is like it's supposed to be. It seems to be that every year some drainage hole comes loose, or something slides up. Luckily nobody got hurt, but it obviously destroyed everybody's day.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: No time set, P20; FP2: 1:45.366, P12
"Again I could only drive one session today. For me it is becoming quite normal as I also missed FP1 in China - at the next race I'll only show up on Saturday. Joking aside, FP2 was not too bad and I got quite a few laps in. I'm happy with the car and even if I've been given a 10-place grid penalty I think something is possible here."
Williams suffered a cruel turn of luck – Russell ran over a loose drain cover in first practice, which badly damaged his floor amongst other things. With a new chassis needed, that ended his day’s work after just 12 minutes on track. Kubica at least completed a full programme in second practice, but still seemed to be well off the pace of the lower midfield.
Robert Kubica – FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:48.111, P19
"It was not an ideal day losing FP1, I think everybody would have liked more track time, especially on a street circuit and for me this isn’t one I’ve raced on before. The track is very tricky. I spent time discovering it in FP2 but I don’t have much confidence, we are struggling overall with the grip and we cannot push the car as the tyres are not able to remain in the operating window. Additional time was lost during FP2 due to the red flags and it’s a shame we couldn’t drive both cars on the circuit."
George Russell - FP1: No time set; FP2: No time set
"It has been a tough day, it’s a shame for the guys to spend yesterday preparing the car to only do a couple of laps. I was going down the straight and I felt a big bang through the chassis and everything turned off; it’s just unfortunate. The plan right now is to go into debrief, listen to Robert’s comments and see what the guys have planned for tomorrow. Overall, today has been a bit of a frustration, but we must make the most of the situation and I will remain positive for the weekend ahead."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"We were expecting a difficult day and that is indeed what we have had. The incident in FP1 with George’s car was unfortunate and frustrating. Not only did it cause extensive damage to the car, but it also cost us the opportunity to complete the testing that we had planned. Fortunately, though, George was unhurt. With FP1 cancelled, we opted to use an additional set of tyres on Robert’s car in FP2 to give him the best possible opportunity to understand the track.
"The remainder of the weekend will be tough but in FP3 we will have the spare chassis built and ready for George to begin to catch-up following his lack of running today. Qualifying in Baku is often a chaotic affair and we will look to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself."
Mario Isola, head of F1 and Car Racing
“It was a slightly inconclusive opening day here in Baku, which demonstrated all the unpredictability that a street circuit can offer. Because there was so little running in FP1, the track was especially slippery in FP2, and the subsequent track evolution – as well as more red flag stoppages when cars hit the wall – made it hard to get a true picture of the performance gap between the compounds. We’d expect the current gap of 1.7 seconds between the medium and soft to come down tomorrow, although the gaps will always be quite big on such a long track. However, we’ve already seen some themes emerge: wear and degradation are very low, and there’s been a particularly strong performance from Ferrari on both tyre compounds during the opening day. FP3 tomorrow will be very significant as the cars prepare for qualifying on what should finally be a level playing field, after most of their short and long runs were interrupted today.”