Both drivers had off-track moments, but Grosjean in particular was encouraged by times not far off the top 10 in both sessions.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:49.611, P11; FP2: 1:46.681, P12
"Discovering a new track is exciting in some places and pretty tricky in others. It's not easy to find the right balance but I'm much happier than where we've been recently, so that's pretty positive. I'm sure there's still a lot to come from everything. It wasn't easy with the track temperature dropping this evening to find the right set up, but I think we're in a position where we're getting there finding the balance. Tomorrow we can improve a little bit. We're just outside Q3 which wouldn't be a bad place to start. The car definitely felt better than more recently and the tires were working better. There are still a few issues we need to solve but generally I'm happy."
Esteban Gutierrez - FP1: 1:50.167, P14; FP2: 1:46.744, P15
"It was a productive Friday for us. We had a good program and we managed to complete everything we wanted to do. It was very interesting to get to know the circuit. It's a fun track to drive. The car seems to be behaving well and the grip is better than I expected, so that's a positive we can take through the weekend. Obviously that will keep on improving so we need to make sure we follow that with the car setup to maximize its potential. I had a small touch with the wall toward the end of FP2 where the track becomes very tight due to a little bit of understeer, but it was ok and there was no damage to the car. Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow and to qualifying."
"Good day today for both drivers on a new track. We managed to get through the test program we'd set out, so we're pretty happy with that. It doesn't seem that we've got the issues with the tires that we had with the last race, so that appears to be a little more under control. Now we're focusing our efforts on tomorrow and getting the car set up for qualifying, as we're pushing to improve our performance and move a little further up the grid."
McLaren looked very good in FP1, and then respectable in FP2, on a track that is not supposed to suit them. Whether they remain in the top 10 tomorrow, or just got going quickly before many others, remains to be seen. Despite a fuel system problem in FP2 Alonso was happy, said that the reality was better than the team's simulation had suggested, and that the times don't reflect their full potential.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:47.989, P4; FP2: 1:46.498, P11
"Today was positive. We arrived to find a very fast track, as we expected, but also one with some challenging corners. Maybe we need to go through the data at some of the corners as there's still areas where we can improve – tightening up our knowledge of the inside kerbs and the racing lines, for instance. That's something I did in Singapore a few years ago, and it really helped.
"Looking at the data we had from the simulator, I reckon our level of competitiveness is possibly slightly better than we'd anticipated – we're performing quite well, so that's the positive news of today. Today's positions don't really show our full potential."
Jenson Button - FP1: 1:49.019, P7; FP2: 1:46.234, P9
"We started this morning a little bit better than we'd perhaps expected, but, once everyone had got to grips with the track, it moved us to our usual positions.
"Getting the right downforce level will be key for qualifying – we still need to work out what that will be, as our understanding isn't quite there yet. We also need to better understand the tyres, too – the Soft seems to be a good tyre, but we need to improve our performance on the Supersoft.
"There are some good corners around here; Turn 14 is right on the edge – it's mad, really – but the section past the castle is too slow. The car felt reasonably okay, but, on a slippery track, when you get a tiny bit of oversteer, you suddenly get a lot of oversteer, which makes things tough.
"We're not quite there yet with the balance, but I hope we can get things into shape for Saturday and Sunday."
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director
"Today was always going to be challenging: given the contrasting characteristics of this track – the lengthy, high-speed main straight, and the tight, unforgiving section through the old city – it was essential to establish optimal downforce and balance settings for the remainder of the weekend.
"That meant running both cars in a number of different wing, floor, tyre, fuel and balance configurations in order to gather as much data as possible for our engineers to study this evening. We've certainly got plenty of information – we just need to look over it carefully tonight.
"First impressions of this track are certainly impressive – it's already clear that this is no ordinary weekend, and the race on Sunday is likely to be tense, exciting and unpredictable, which can only be a positive for the fans.
"Let's hope that we're well equipped to take full advantage of that expected unpredictability on Sunday."
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
"Our focus today was to set up the car and power unit to the first ever F1 track in Baku. Based on today's performance, we still need to tweak the power unit data to adapt to the frequent braking, long straights and the over-6km full lap. All in all, we believe that the setting is good so far.
"Obviously, Friday's finishing positions do not often reflect the reality of the race, but we are at a good starting point."
Wehrlein was very happy in FP1, especially as he did his time on mediums, but set-up changes sent the handling awry in FP2. Haryanto, by contrast, was happier with his car's performance in the later session.
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:51.219, P20; FP2: 1:48.018, P21
"I'm very happy with the track; it's really nice - and interesting - and I'm enjoying driving here. FP1 was good because I did my lap on the Medium tyres, but then we made some changes between the two sessions and things didn't work out so well. We need to go over the data and explore this a little more, so we can be back on it for FP3 tomorrow."
Rio Haryanto - FP1: 1:51.925, P22; FP2: 1:47.487, P18
"Today was a really positive day for us. If I compare FP1 and FP2, we seemed to be more competitive in FP2, so we're obviously heading in a good direction. We did some long runs to understand the tyre degradation better. The Supersoft tyre was trickier but the Softs felt quite good. I really enjoyed getting to grips with the circuit; it's a fun track and I think we're in good shape for tomorrow and for the race."
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
"Some really positive signs from our opening day on track here in Baku. Today's running certainly lived up to expectation, with a few thrills and spills up and down the field. Rio and Pascal handled themselves very well at what is clearly a challenging track to master, so they should be pretty pleased with their first day's work. It's early days yet but we seem to be right in the mix with both Renault and Sauber, which is a good sign at this stage of the weekend but obviously it's qualifying tomorrow that counts, so there's a lot of work for the engineers and mechanics to get through before the 0300hrs curfew kicks in tomorrow morning. It has to be said this is a spectacular circuit and I think we can look forward to an exciting couple of days ahead on track, particularly as we adapt to slightly later session times when the track conditions will evolve significantly."
Ericsson's car had an engine change during the inter-session break, while Nasr had his down-on-power Monaco engine in the car and will switch back to his Canadian powertrain tomorrow. That hurt his times today, especially with the long drag from Turn 16 to Turn 1.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:50.473, P15; FP2: 1:47.772, P19
"First of all, it was a great job by the guys to do the engine change between FP1 and FP2 because of the exhaust problem we had. As I did not miss that much time in FP2, I was able to run a good amount of laps. I was struggling a bit more in FP2, but I had a good feeling and continued to learn this new track. Every lap is important, so it felt like I took some good steps from lap to lap. Overall a busy day for all of us, but we learned a lot and go into tomorrow with a positive mindset."
Felipe Nasr - FP1: 1:51.771, P21; FP2: 1:48.081, P22
"Overall, it was important today to get into a good rhythm on this new track. In FP1 we had an issue on the second set of tyres. The rear left tyre got damaged, so for safety reasons I could not continue. Therefore, I lost a bit of track time towards the end of FP1. Nevertheless, I was able to recover quite well in FP2, altough the lap time does not show that. As I ran the practice engine, I should gain a bit more lap time on the straights with the race engine as of tomorrow. The track layout is very much dominated by a good top speed, so I am confident the timesheets will look better tomorrow."
Sainz yet again showed great flair and speed. The Spaniard was happy with his STR11 after nibbling away at the set -up, while Kvyat struggled in FP1 before making progress in FP2. Both had some adventurous moments along the way.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:49.267, P9; FP2: 1:46.027, P6
“It was a new challenge for all of us out there today, as it was our first time driving at this track. It’s a high-speed circuit with very close walls and tight run-off areas, which requires maximum precision and concentration. The long straights here in Baku also make you run low downforce at a street circuit, which is something new in Formula One. So, it was an interesting day. I took it little by little in both FP1 and FP2 and had quite a bit of fun trying to find out where the limit is. In general we kept it “more or less” clean and we were able to learn a lot for tomorrow. We expect different conditions to today, which was very cloudy, windy and therefore more difficult. I’m pleasantly surprised with this track, I like it. Before today I had only driven it on the sim and I have to say that doing it for real is much better: in the sim the walls are transparent, while here you have the excitement of being so close to them… the adrenaline rush you feel around these streets is big and I really enjoyed it out there today! It’s a fun challenge and I look forward to tomorrow!”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:50.551, P17; FP2: 1:46.744, P14
“FP1 wasn’t the best of sessions because we struggled a bit to find the right set-up of the car. However, this afternoon’s FP2, was much more productive, even though we were still lacking some pace, which we are confident we can find. We now just need to try and put everything together for tomorrow. We collected important data which I hope will be useful for the rest of the weekend. We know which direction to go in and we will work hard tonight in order to get it all right.”
Phil Charles, chief race engineer
“It is always interesting coming to a new track and this one has certainly proven so far to be a stimulating challenge for both the drivers and engineers alike. On the driver’s side, it has a little bit of everything: kerbs, walls, bumps and tricky braking - the results being we have seen quite a few mistakes on track today. I think it will continue to be quite tough for the drivers to put good clean laps together consistently for the rest of the weekend. For us as engineers, we obviously don’t have the set-up notes from last year, so there is a bit more to learn than usual. It is clear that some teams and drivers have hit a sweet spot while some others are not quite in their usual ranking position. This means there are some factors that are specific to this circuit, which we need to understand and react to tonight. It will also be tricky to try and second-guess the track changes that will happen as the new tarmac settles and the temperatures increase through the weekend.”
Paul Hembery, motorsport director
“Baku has proven to be a different challenge compared to the majority of circuits we visit. Being a new track, initial running was on a slightly dirty surface that evolved throughout the sessions. The high winds weren’t helping today as teams searched for the ideal set up to maximise performance and maintain tyre performance in the optimal window. We will now compare our actual running data to the pre-race simulations in order to understand any differences between the two.”
Mercedes generally had a good day and an easier time of it than of late, as their closest rival was Perez, 1.113s adrift of Hamilton. The champion said he was happy with the way things went despite a brush with thee Turn 3 wall in FP1, and that he liked the mental challenge of the track. Rosberg wasn't quite so happy, and stopped with 20 minutes of FP2 left when his car developed a power loss problem, the nature of which has yet to be disclosed.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:46.435, P1; FP2: 1:44.223, P1
“A good day for me and a nice way to start the weekend. The track isn't easy - not because the layout is particularly difficult to learn but because it's very slippery out there. It's quite Monaco-esque in terms of braking and how close the barriers are - but you're arriving at much higher speeds. Otherwise it's like a mixture of Valencia and Sochi with the smooth track surface and the style of the corners themselves. It's a real challenge and I think it's going to be tough for everyone over the weekend. It takes a lot of focus, which is something I like. I've enjoyed driving here today.”
Nico Rosberg - FP1: 1:46.812, P2; FP2: 1:44.913, P2
“The track is pretty cool. There are just some safety concerns at a few places like the pit entry, which we have to look into. One-lap pace was a bit tricky for me, as I only had one set of soft tyres to use. But on the long run with the supersoft I was feeling good out there. Unfortunately my second session was a bit compromised this afternoon as I had to stop the car after I lost power. We are still investigating what happened there. I was a bit surprised by the order today, seeing Force India just behind us. I don't really know what to expect from Red Bull and Ferrari over the weekend, as they've been our closest rivals so far, so we'll see.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“A good day but not a perfect one. It's been interesting experiencing a brand new track with such unusual characteristics. Inevitably, the core focus today was on finding our way with set-up. Overall we found a good balance with both cars on both high and low fuel and the tyres seem to be working well. Unfortunately, however, we lost two long runs today. The first with Lewis thanks to a flat spot his supersoft tyres, the second with Nico after he came to a halt on the start / finish straight, which we're investigating currently. So plenty of work to do this evening in the garage and in the engineering room to ensure we're in good shape for tomorrow's qualifying session.”
This was a tough day for Red Bull especially in FP1 when Verstappen's engine developed an oil leak, and Ricciardo made a rare mistake and damaged his right rear suspension against the Turn 15 wall. Thigs were better in FP2, but inevitably there was a price to pay for the previous disruptions, and lots of work to do overnight in preparation for FP3.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:49.778, P13; FP2: 1:46.293, P10
“I think the circuit is pretty cool, it’s definitely as tight as it looks and has a lot of corners unlike any others on the calendar. There are a few interesting lines past the castle which adds to the toughness. It’s pretty unique and as I showed this morning some of the corners are pretty challenging and not that easy. I didn’t brake too late, I actually came off the brakes too quick and tried to carry too much speed across the corner, even at the apex I didn’t think there was a problem but then the rear kicked out and did quite a lot of damage. On a positive note the guys did a really awesome job to get me out there for second practice so a big thanks to them for allowing me to use the entire session. There is some time on the straight to think, which is nice as the corners are technical and you really need to concentrate. Being a street circuit if you want to be quick you need to find the limit and get close to the walls. In general we are chasing some grip and not really where we want to be. As we have found at new tracks before, getting the tyres to dig in isn’t easy, so when we improve that we will find some lap time.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:50.485, P16; FP2: 1:46.068, P7
“It was a shame we didn’t really get to do a lot in FP1. If you don’t do that many laps in the first free practice you miss a little bit of car set-up and from a driver’s point of view you want more laps so you can get comfortable. The second practice session was not perfect for us - we definitely have some work to do but I’m not shocked, it’s ok, we still need to find a bit, but we have some very clever engineers up there to solve the problem. In general the track itself is quite fun to drive, although some kerbs were coming off so we need to have a discussion (with the FIA) about that, and the exit of the pit lane is also not ideal so maybe they can open it up a little bit. The track is quite slippery and you arrive from very high speeds and the braking is also not so easy, and in some areas it’s very tight so you have to be focused. You need to be careful in the runoff areas because it can be easy to get stuck in them. We knew we wouldn’t be the strongest on the straights, especially with such a long straight here, so we have to find a bit of a compromise in set-up and make the best of it.”
Force India had their tail well and truly up after strong performances in both sessions. Both drivers said they were happy with the set-up they arrived at, and that they loved driving the track. After one of their strongest Friday showings, optimism is very high for the rest of the weekend.
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:48.922, P6; FP2: 1:45.336, P3
“I knew when I walked the track yesterday that it was going to be good fun to drive - and today didn’t disappoint. It’s an amazing circuit: really challenging, no margin for error, and a real pleasure to drive. I kept things tidy today, but it’s easy to make a mistake and we saw that when cars do run wide they really pay a high penalty. It’s been a very positive day for us. The car felt good as soon as we started the first session and we were up there straight away with competitive times. That’s a good sign for the rest of the weekend and I’m feeling optimistic about our performance.”
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:49.301, P10; FP2: 1:45.920, P5
“Coming here to Baku has been great fun and the track is very cool. It’s got a bit of everything, with long straights, big braking zones and some exciting high-speed corners, which all the drivers enjoy. So, overall you have to say they’ve done a really good job with the circuit and it makes a nice change to come here and try something that is so different. In terms of our performance, I’m pleased with how things went today: the car feels well balanced and we made some improvements between the two sessions. We have good speed in the car and we are on the pace with some competitive lap times. It’s a good starting point heading into the weekend.”
Robert Fernley, deputy team principal
“Congratulations to everybody involved in bringing this race to the calendar. The city of Baku has given us an extremely warm welcome and they’ve delivered an outstanding circuit. Both our drivers love the layout and managed to get up to speed quickly during the opening session. Our performance looks promising at this stage and we also showed good consistency during the long runs. Of course, heading into qualifying there will be some fine-tuning to ensure we find some more speed, but we’ve had a successful first day on track and have a good understanding of the car.”
Once again Williams were quick from the outset, at least where Bottas was concerned. Third in FP1, he was fourth in FP2 and happy with the way his FW38 suited the track. Massa struggled to get his car's tyres into their working range, but said he felt he made some headway towards the end of FP2.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:47.096, P3; FP2: 1:45.764, P4
“It was an interesting day for me, I really like the track. It’s very demanding, it has some high speed corners and some twisty, more technical areas, so it’s definitely one of the most challenging tracks on the calendar, but at the same time it’s a lot of fun. Even though I felt good today, we can still improve the car a lot and get more from the tyres. I have high expectations for the weekend, but we have to keep working because at a new track there’s always more to learn, which I enjoy. It’s interesting finding out all the secrets corner by corner. We need to work hard to keep finding more lap time from me and from the car because we have the opportunity for another good result this weekend.”
Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:49.125, P8; FP2: 1:47.060, P16
“It was a very difficult day for me. I was struggling to get the tyres to work and I’ve never had a problem like this so far this season, so it’s something that we need to analyse. I couldn’t drive the car how I would like because the tyres weren’t within the working range, so whenever I was out on track I was struggling massively. All the other drivers were learning a lot and improving every lap but I couldn’t. There’s a lot of work to do before tomorrow, but I’m sure when we have looked at everything and made some changes, I’ll be competitive. It’s a nice track, of course you enjoy it more when everything is working properly, but the track is interesting. It’s not easy to find the lines in certain corners, particularly the slow sections.”
Rob Smedley, head of Performance Engineering
“The first impressions of Baku are that it’s clearly a good track and definitely offers us a good opportunity to be near the front. I like the circuit layout and, apart from an issue with the kerbs in FP1 and FP2 which will hopefully be resolved by tomorrow, I think the organisers have done a very good job. As an engineer, it’s definitely an interesting track because it gives you a compromise, because sector three and sectors one and two have very different requirements. Valtteri’s been very happy with the car all day. There’s more to come from him though, because he’s still trying to find his feet around the circuit. Felipe, on the other hand, isn’t as happy with the car. We tried some different set-up options, as you sometimes do when you come to a new circuit, and thankfully at the end of the session we found a good direction and he was much happier with the car, which was reflected in his lap times. We were reasonable on the low and high fuel runs, which suggests we can be competitive in all situations. So I’m very confident that we can have both cars up there at the front tomorrow with very similar lap times.”
Ferrari came down with a bump after Canada, as both Vettel and Raikkonen struggled for much of the day and ended it with MGU-K failures. The Finn in particular struggled to get the tyres working, while Vettel said the car felt okay but just lacked speed.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:48.627, P5; FP2: 1:46.219, P8
“In the end I don't think we had a bad day. Obviously, it is not great that Kimi could not finish the session, but after all we did many laps. I got to know the track. It is quite interesting, and that was the main objective today. The car felt good, what is missing is some speed, but I am sure we can improve. We look at what we have done. The track is very difficult, you have quite a long straight leading into hard brakings. At the beginning to find the reference is quite tricky. Your own orientation is not enough and all the trees look the same. After a while you find the rhythm, you know the bumps and then it becomes a bit better. But at the beginning it took some time. Plus it was quite slippery to start, so it was definitely more fun this afternoon. However, it seems a nice track, quite challenging, especially the high speed sections. For us everything felt ok. We are too far away and this is our problem, we are not quick enough. I am sure we will find something for tomorrow. I am confident because I believe in the team, in the car and sometimes also believe in myself!”
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:49.635, P12; FP2: 1:46.694, P13
“The circuit layout is pretty ok, it's different and fun to drive. Being a new track it was quite slippery to start with, but this is normal. The balance of the car was not too bad but the main issue today was to make the tires work, the challenge was to switch them on for one lap. With more laps it seems to get better and better, but to make a lap time was not easy. I don't know what was the issue at the end of the session, for sure something happened, the car stopped but we still don't know why. Once we'll get the car back we'll be able to understand. In the evening we'll have to go through what we have done today and see what we can improve for tomorrow.”
High-speed balance is the primary concern down at Renault, although both drivers also had several off-track moments as they explored the limits of grip at the new circuit.
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:50.939, P19; FP2: 1:47.329, P17
“It’s an awesome circuit and quite a challenge. The car didn’t feel fantastic in the first session but it felt much better in FP2 with the set-up progress we’d made and also the track improving. I’m pretty happy with the balance of the car. We’ve got a little work to do with brake locking, but that should get better with the track improvement. I’m looking forward to getting back out tomorrow once we’ve worked a bit more on the car. I think we’re set for an interesting weekend.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:50.910, P18; FP2: 1:47.794, P20
“It was pretty slippery in FP1 and I think most drivers had a moment at some point over the two sessions today. We made good progress with understanding the track and making improvements to the car. I certainly appreciated the extra grip we found on the supersoft runs but we’re still looking for a better balance in the high speed corners, something we can hopefully find in the set-up before qualifying.”
Nick Chester, technical director
“We enjoyed a productive day learning this dramatic and challenging new venue. Both drivers were able to accumulate a good tally of laps so we have plenty of data to look at overnight. We saw a lot of improvement in grip levels over the course of the day as you’d expect and we spent a decent amount of time looking at the tyre performance which as always is a crucial aspect for the race.”