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What the teams said - Friday in Azerbaijan

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Mick Schumacher of Germany and Haas F1 talks with Sebastian Vettel of

Red Bull

Verstappen made a perfect start to the weekend, topping the timing sheets in the first session despite suffering some frustration with traffic in the narrower sections of the track. Perez wasn’t too far back in fourth, and the Mexican then showed why he has an excellent record at this track when he finished P1 in FP2. A nigh-on perfect day for the Bulls, especially when the struggles of Mercedes are taken into account.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:43.184, P1; FP2: 1:42.216, P2

"Performance wise I think we had a great start to the weekend here in Baku. It was quite windy out there today which wasn’t easy for any of us, but it definitely makes things more interesting. In FP1 the car felt pretty decent, I was quite comfortable and then for FP2 we made a few changes to see if it was better but I don’t think it was, so we’ll look into that overnight and see what direction we will go for qualifying. So far I think we look pretty strong as a Team and I’m very happy with that so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:43.630, P4; FP2: 1:42.115, P1

“I’m happy with today and I think we’ve definitely made some good progress. We did a very good analysis after Monaco and today felt like I am understanding the car more and how I need to drive it. I think this is probably the best Friday of the season for me, it’s the most complete in terms of data and how comfortable I feel with the car. Hopefully we can get a good, clean lap in qualifying tomorrow which is when it matters, but we’ll still work hard tonight to improve and try to find some more lap time.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari

It was a decent start to proceedings for Ferrari, with Leclerc second in FP1 by a tiny margin, and Sainz not too much further back. Both drivers looked quick again in the later session, although Leclerc blotted his copy book by crashing at Turn 15 after locking up a front tyre. That cost him his front wing, but he was able to get back out and will hope for a cleaner weekend from here on in.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:43.227, P2; FP2: 1:42.436, P4

“It was definitely a better day than we expected, but it’s only the first day of practice. The pace looked promising, and we will keep working overnight to be as competitive tomorrow. I felt quite comfortable in the car today, especially in terms of braking, maybe even too comfortable, pushing a bit too much into Turn 15. But in the end, that’s what free practice is for – testing the limits. I was on a good lap there and we will see what we can do tomorrow. Our main competitors are quick, even though they haven’t shown it yet. We have to make sure we do everything perfectly. We have to maximize our potential and hopefully we can have a good qualifying.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:43.521, P3; FP2: 1:42.243, P3

“Today we were a bit quicker than we had expected. However, the time sheets can be misleading, with cars getting tows on the straights – myself included – and others not finishing flying laps for various reasons. Still, it was an encouraging first day for the team here in Baku. Tomorrow afternoon will obviously be a better indicator ahead of qualifying, so we need to work out where we can gain a bit of lap time on the short runs, as well as finding a good compromise to make the tyres work on the long runs. There could be opportunities this weekend and we need to be ready to make the most of them.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Mercedes

After their struggles in Monaco, most expected Mercedes to bounce back strongly here. But that was not the case, with their drivers off the pace in FP1. The second session was even worse, both out of the top 10 with Hamilton complaining on the radio that he just can’t find any more pace. They look set to have a late night poring over the data if they want to try and bridge the gap to their rivals.

READ MORE: ‘We're just slow’ – Hamilton and Bottas ‘scratching their heads’ over Mercedes pace deficit in Baku

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:43.893, P7; FP2: 1:43.156, P11

"We had a clean run and worked through everything we needed to in both sessions - it just wasn't very fast! The car felt better in P1 but in the second session, there just wasn't more time in it - I was pushing hard but we were struggling for grip. We're definitely a chunk of time down and I think everyone will be scratching their heads tonight, looking into the data to figure out what the issue is. The long runs were slightly better but there's lots of work to do."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:44.891, P10; FP2: 1:44.184, P16

"It was very tricky for us today, we are clearly lacking pace and it feels like we're missing overall grip and sliding around. Monaco wasn't easy but at least we were more or less there for qualifying. It's been more of a challenging day than we anticipated and we need to figure out why. We were slightly better on the long runs but we're still lacking pace. So overall not an easy day with lots of work to do - I think it's going to be a long night."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"Today was our worst Friday by some margin. Our biggest issue seemed to be the single lap; we're a long way from our normal positions so clearly we need to find something very significant there. The long run picture was not as bad - a fair bit behind Red Bull but still in the mix. So, lots to work on overnight; we're planning a comprehensive programme of analysis and simulator work to try and understand some of these issues but we clearly have an awful lot to find."

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

An eventful FP1 for AlphaTauri saw both drivers run off the track, in Tsunoda’s case after clipping the barriers. The rookie didn’t damage his car but more wounded his pride as he struggled to manage a three-point turn in the run off area. Roll on FP2 and once again Gasly looked the quicker of the two, and looks to have inserted himself at the front of what could be a very competitive midfield fight for ‘best of the rest’ behind the Ferraris.

READ MORE: Tost explains Tsunoda's move to Italy as he backs AlphaTauri rookie to deliver 'fantastic races' in 2021

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:43.757, P6; FP2: 1:42.534, P5

“It’s been a very good Friday for us, a really positive P6 this morning and P5 this afternoon, at the moment I’m feeling very good in the car. I’m able to be quite aggressive and push the limits, I went over too far once or twice but that’s how we find the line and extract the maximum from the car. I’m pretty pleased so far, especially because we did the lap without any slip streams so potentially there’s more pace available to us tomorrow.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:45.384, P14; FP2: 1:43.130, P10

“It’s fairly similar to Monaco here, you have to build up the pace and also confidence in the braking zones, as most of the corners need strong braking. I went into the run-off areas a few times but it was good practice for me to find the limit and luckily I didn’t go into the wall! I think the progress from FP1 to FP2 was good, I struggled a bit in the morning, so it was a good step up in FP2. There are a few areas I still need to work on, but the pace is definitely there this weekend, we just need to put it altogether tomorrow.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“We managed a busy but successful Friday practice here in Baku. Pierre has driven here before but for Yuki it was his first time, in any category, and FP1 was a challenge for him. The dirty and low grip track, combined with the wind, definitely had an impact on his initial performance. We mainly used today’s sessions to build a better picture of how to maximise the performance from the tyres, with both drivers using the Mediums then the Softs, as well as working on the car balance in FP1. The higher track temperatures and the use of a softer compound this time in Baku has enabled us to get the tyres working quicker than in the past here, which is positive. We were quite happy with the car in FP1, although we could still see a number of areas to improve, so we made some set-up changes to both cars for FP2. This appeared to be a step in the right direction and was reflected in the short-run performance. Yuki did exactly what we asked of him and by the end of FP2 he was a close match to Pierre, I am sure he will find more time in FP3 and Qualifying. The long-runs today were difficult when fighting with cars around, as will be the case at the start of the race, but we have some good data now to analyse, which will help us understand where the limit is and we can then use that in our strategy model.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Pierre Gasly of Scuderia AlphaTauri and France during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

McLaren

Ricciardo has put his time off since Monaco to good use and it showed in FP1, the Aussie looking composed as he managed to finish ahead of both Mercedes cars. Norris spun on his first flying lap on the softs but with flo-vis liberally sprayed down his car, still managed to gather plenty of data for the team. Ricciardo’s pace dropped off in the afternoon as the team looked more focused on longer runs, but expect them to be at the sharp end come qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:43.732, P5; FP2: 1:43.298, P13

“It was a pretty good day. We certainly found a few things and made progress. The lap times don’t always tell the full story, and 13th doesn’t show much, but I think we’re a lot closer than that. Obviously, we’ve still got to work hard to make it happen, but I think today was certainly a step in the right direction and I feel more comfortable and confident going into tomorrow.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:43.996, P8; FP2: 1:43.018, P8

"A decent day. Hot! But on the whole, I think it wasn't too bad. FP1, we looked quite good; FP2 we struggled a little bit more, so we’ll try to understand and see if it was anything we did with the set-up or the conditions. A lot of room for improvement going into tomorrow, so we’ll see what we can do with our data tonight and work out how we can improve the car.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“An interesting and productive Friday. We didn’t suffer any major disruptions and acquired a lot of data. This track sets plenty of challenges for the team. For the drivers, it’s always a challenge with the low grip and the walls, for the engineers it’s the tough choices on choosing the best rear wing level. The tyre allocation this year is interesting too, with both the soft and medium compounds having high degradation. However, we had an encouraging day, and the car looks to be in good shape. We’re looking forward to building from here for a positive qualifying session tomorrow, and a good race on Sunday.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Alpine

It was a mixed day for Alpine, with Ocon off the pace in FP1 but leaping back up the order in the later session. As for Alonso, with qualifying his Achilles’ Heel so far this season, he focused on soft tyre runs and managed a very credible sixth in FP2. They could have stiff competition from the likes of McLaren if they want to stay there tomorrow though.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:45.446, P16; FP2: 1:43.020, P9

“Overall we had a decent day, with good understanding and lots of data, especially on the longer runs. There are obviously some things we need to go through tonight but both cars finished in the top ten in the afternoon. The track was quite dirty this morning but made a huge improvement in FP2. On my side I was not completely happy with the car, but we know the direction we need to take for the rest of the weekend, which is positive: we obviously need to keep this momentum tomorrow.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:44.777, P9; FP2: 1:42.693, P6

“It was a positive Friday for us today and good to be back driving in Baku. The car felt good straight away in FP1 and we didn’t play around too much with the setup. We tried some different tyre combinations just to understand the needs of the entire weekend and we will take some valuable data from this. Overall, it was a good start to the weekend, but we know there are some other areas of performance for us to still unlock.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“It was a positive day as we ran through our programme this morning and afternoon. It looks like our performance is not so bad at the moment and we can be fairly satisfied with the day’s work. Fernando is quite happy about the car and we made an improvement for Esteban from the morning. Let’s keep the positive trend going for the rest of the weekend.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Once again, Alfa had a good Friday with both drivers on the fringes of the top 10 in FP1. But better was to come, Giovinazzi’s early lap on the soft compound tyre in FP2 staying the course and landing the Italian with a very credible seventh. Could a second-straight Q3 appearance beckon?

READ MORE: Giovinazzi targeting new Alfa Romeo deal as he says hard work over winter is paying off

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:44.943, P11; FP2: 1:43.220, P12

“It was a good way to start the weekend, the car felt ok from the morning session but of course there is still a lot that can be improved. In the end, there were a few interruptions with the yellow and red flags, which broke up the day a little, but it’s the same for everyone and we have to deal with it. We will see what we can improve on the car tonight: hopefully we can have a strong day tomorrow.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:45.092, P12; FP2: 1:42.941, P7

“The car felt good from the start: FP1 wasn’t too bad and we made a step forward in the second session. I am happy with what we saw in both the qualifying and the race simulations. It’s only Friday but I’m satisfied to be seventh in the standings, hopefully we can carry on this form tomorrow. There are still a few little things to improve, of course, but we can be happy so far. Tomorrow we will need to put everything together, as always, and make sure we make the most of the tow as it will be critical. We will try our best and hopefully have a good result.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

It was quieter day for Aston Martin, with both drivers managing a good haul of laps. Vettel had a few off-track moments including one spin in Turn 16, but kept out of the barriers to the relief of his crew. Thus far, they look off the pace of the midfield, so will need to find something special overnight if they want to get close to Q3 tomorrow.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:45.415, P15; FP2: 1:43.881, P15

“We covered plenty of laps and end the day feeling satisfied that we have done our homework. The track was in good shape from the start, but obviously improved quite a bit during the day. It is a tricky circuit at the best of times, but by the end of the sessions I was finding a nice rhythm. During my laps on the soft tyres, I did not maximise everything and I am sure it is the same for the others because there were a lot of yellow flags, especially this afternoon. So there is more to come. The long runs were a bit cleaner and I have a good feel for the car already. Let’s see where we can improve overnight.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:45.234, P13; FP2: 1:43.812, P14

“It is great to be driving in Baku. It is a place that holds special memories for me and it is great fun to drive here. It is so high-speed; you are constantly close to the wall, and it is a challenge for the driver. You can gain a lot of lap time under braking because you arrive at high speeds, and getting the braking point right really helps bring a lap together. I think we made some good progress with the car today; we learned a lot about the set-up and I think we can make further gains with car balance. We will go away tonight, review it all, and try to make improvements for tomorrow.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and Germany > during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Williams

Latifi didn’t have an ideal day, losing power early on in FP2 and being forced to park up on track. That not only brought out the red flags but also ended the Canadian’s day much earlier than planned. Russell fortunately did gather plenty of data for the team, but on today’s showing, doesn’t look set to challenge in the midfield on pure pace.

George Russell – FP1: 1:45.452, P17; FP2: 1:44.557, P17

"It was a tough day here in Baku. Our competitors are looking a little faster than we expected, but I think with some hard work tonight and the right changes to the set-up we can find some lap time. I wasn’t pushing the boundaries massively as it’s only practice so it’s about getting the laps under my belt and finding a rhythm. Hopefully I can make it count when it matters tomorrow; Q2 is the goal for me and I think it’s possible if we can put absolutely everything together. Above all, I think the race on Sunday is going to be really interesting."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:45.774, P18; FP2: 1:46.983, P20

"In FP2, I moved out of the way of another car but couldn't turn back left to get back onto the track. In the time it took me to reverse from the escape road the power unit got too hot; the safety measures put in place to make sure it doesn't get damage kicked in and it shut off. Unfortunately, that was the end of my session.

"You don't want to miss track time, especially on a street circuit, so it's not ideal but we will make the best of it and see what we can do. Q2 is still the objective for us as a team but we need to see where we are in FP3 tomorrow."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"It has been a tough day with high quality laps around this long circuit at an absolute premium. Having had a decent first practice session, we lost valuable time on Nicholas’s car this afternoon when the power unit protection strategy was triggered following a trip down the escape road. Unfortunately, Nicholas couldn’t get the car back on track quick enough to prevent the power unit getting too hot and so the protection strategy intervened to prevent any damage to the unit.

"George had a smoother day but struggled a bit for pace at both low and high fuel. However, we got most of the key work done and we know that there is more time to come from both car and drivers as this is not a circuit to push too hard too soon.

"The tyres are given a hard time on this long track, especially when the track is hot and there will probably be little room for error during qualifying tomorrow. There are likely to be some incidents during the session and it is possible that not all drivers will get the chance to show their pace in Q1. The race could be interesting with a range of tyre strategies possible."

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Mazepin had the first big incident of the weekend, spinning out of Turn 16 in FP1 and clipping the wall. Luckily it was a gentle hit and he was able to make it back to the pits under his own steam. Moments later Schumacher ran wide, but fortunately didn’t connect with the barriers. The German did miss some running in FP2 though, with an oil pressure issue. He’ll hope for a cleaner session tomorrow to gain some confidence before his first street-circuit qualifying in F1.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:46.899, P19; FP2: 1:46.095, P19

“The track was quite dirty to begin with this morning and it didn’t really clean up through the first session. With F2 running it did clean up a bit for FP2. Unfortunately, we didn’t get all the laps in that we wanted. I had a few issues, but I still got to do one flying lap on the C5 and one or two laps with high fuel. We will probably have to change engines back to the first PU so we will find out and hopefully everything will be fine for tomorrow. In general, we have stuff to learn but we have done quite a bit already and now it’s about putting the puzzle together to be in a good window for FP3 and then for qualifying.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:46.945, P20; FP2: 1:45.563, P18

“I really enjoyed today; I think we’re in a good place. We made some important steps forward. Although the car isn’t performing on high and low downforce tracks, the things that we are able to extract, in terms of the set-up of the car, are encouraging. There’s obviously plenty to go through but today has definitely gone to plan. In terms of feedback, I felt that tyre overheating on long runs is a big issue, not only for us but for other competitors. The track is very low grip and that makes the asphalt just overheat the tyres, that’s just something I have to get used to coming from Monaco and Barcelona. I think long runs were our stronger point today though. At the moment where we stand on Friday, I’m not imagining that we’ll go forward too much come Sunday, but who knows, maybe Saturday and Sunday can bring some surprises.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“It’s always difficult to come here – you know, the track is very green when we start, and our two drivers are rookies, they’ve both raced here only once before in F2. We knew it was going to be a challenge, but I think the guys did a good job of it. FP2 went well for Nikita (Mazepin), he got in the most running he could there. Mick (Schumacher) had a good FP1, but in FP2 there was a problem with his oil pressure. We tried to chase down what it was, but we could never find out, so he had to come in and out all the time. He at least got half a session in there in FP2, but he’s saying he’s ready for tomorrow. We continue on the learning curve Saturday – but as you can see, we go from each practice session and improve. That’s the aim and that’s what we’ll continue to do.”

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BAKU, AZERBAIJAN - JUNE 04: Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan at Baku City Circuit on June 04, 2021 in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"As expected, we had a slippery surface at the start of the day, with quite rapid track evolution. It was a hot day in Baku with asphalt temperatures in excess of 50 degrees centigrade, but that doesn't tell the full story as there's so much light and shade on this city circuit that the track temperature in reality can be very varied, leading to changeable grip levels. Getting used to that, as well as balancing the grip between the front and rear axles and working out which compound – soft or medium – will be the optimal choice to start the race with were the main jobs today, throughout a demanding free practice that was also influenced by both yellow and red flags. This isn't an easy track to get to grips with and the surface is still evolving, so there is plenty for the teams to analyse before qualifying, with just a bit of graining seen on the softer compounds in these high temperatures so far. As it's the first time that we're here with the very softest tyres in the range the performance gaps are very much an estimate, but all three compounds are set to play a strong role."

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