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What the teams said - practice in Azerbaijan

23 Jun 2017

A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku...
Renault

Renault had a mixed day, as both of their drivers struggled badly for grip. Hulkenberg was one of only six not to have an incident in FP2, but Palmer caught too much kerb going into Turn 9 and took off is right front wheel, bringing out the red flag for nine minutes.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:47.217, P14; FP2: 1:46.003, P15

"A pretty standard Friday for me except for not getting a fast run on the softest tyres during FP2. It was pretty slippery in FP1, but the track had improved for the evening session. We made some decent progress through the day and I would have been quicker if I'd had a shot at a fast lap on the Supersoft tyres. As always, there are improvements we can make for tomorrow, so that's where our focus lies."

Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:48.525, P18; FP2: 1:46.061, P16

"It was pretty slippery out there and we struggled to get grip from the tyres. The car was feeling better in FP2 but I was caught out at turn eight which ended my day early. We had made progress between FP1 and FP2 and there's more we can make for tomorrow. Thankfully there's not too much damage to the car, so we'll look to get it where we want it to be for qualifying."

Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer

"The first session went reasonably smoothly, but the evening session was dominated by a number of yellow flag incidents which affected our run programme. Jolyon had an early bath, however we did get a long run with Nico in the car so there's sufficient data for race strategy decisions and Jolyon's car won't require too much work, so no big dramas."

Ferrari

No real problems here, apart from Vettel going off-track no fewer than eight times in FP2. Like everyone else, both Ferrari drivers had they problems finding grip, but the pace is there and they traded fast long-run times with Red Bull and Mercedes.

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:44.967, P3; FP2: 1:43.615, P5

"We tried something in the afternoon, but I think it is difficult to find the rhythm here as the track is not easy. I believe I was not the only one to go down the escape roads. However, tomorrow is another day. I think we are close. Red Bull is very fast and today it was not just for one lap but throughout both sessions. However, I was pretty happy with our overall job. The straight here is very long, so you have to make sure you are quick enough there. Maybe we may still want to try a couple of things even tomorrow."

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:46.000, P9; FP2: 1:43.489, P4

"The most challenging part of the day was to make the tires work to get them hot enough. And obviously, when they are not performing 100 percent, it's a bit tricky out there on the track. The car feels ok, but we still have to work on that. If you manage to do that, then everything is a lot easier."

McLaren

Another race, another setback. Alonso’s face was like thunder after yet another mechanical failure in FP2, said this time to be the gearbox. With both cars facing 15 grid place drops because of the usual MGU-H and turbochargers changes, morale isn't exactly buoyant.

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:47.551, P17; FP2: 1:45.515, P12

"We tested a few things in FP1 and FP2, running with different levels of downforce, trying to get some useful information for tomorrow. Stoffel worked on tyres, running on high fuel, both of which will help us make some useful decisions about strategy. 

"The track was tricky today – the Prime and Back-Up tyres lose some heat on the long straights, so when you get onto the brakes they suddenly lock up and you go straight on. We saw many cars going off today, mainly because everyone tries to find their limit on Friday. I think we'll see fewer offs tomorrow, and even fewer on Sunday. 

"I lost the last half hour of the second session, so I suppose tomorrow we'll need to do some running on high fuel, to catch up with the programme. 

"We'll have to start at the back of the grid anyway, so we'll take things smoothly in qualifying."

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:47.446, P15; FP2: 1:46.174, P17

"Today, we chose to concentrate on our long-run pace because we knew we'd be taking grid penalties for the race. 

"Still, I quickly got to grips with the track in FP1, and I think there's a bit more to come tomorrow. The car feels pretty positive around here, which is good because you need confidence on a street circuit. I also think the preparatory work I did in the sim has paid off pretty well – I felt immediately comfortable with where I had to brake, so it seems like the work was really worth it. 

"The tyres are quite tricky again here; it looks like everyone is struggling to warm them up, with lots of people having lock-ups. It's tricky – especially in the braking zones, because the tyres cool down on the long straights and then you have to brake very hard into the corners. The car's really on a knife-edge in terms of extracting a good lap-time."

Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director

"We knew coming into this race that it would be a tough weekend for the whole team. Fernando had a nice little engine upgrade to try this weekend – but, unfortunately, we broke the gearbox in FP2. It was a Friday unit, with high mileage, but we still managed to see some progress, which was good. 

"Still, with both drivers facing grid penalties that would relegate them to either the back row of the grid or possibly a start from the pit-lane, we knew we'd need to do something a little different from the norm to get the most out of our weekend. 

"So we decided to treat today as a little bit of an intensive test session, running a different Friday programme to normal. Of course, that doesn't mean we'll overlook the grand prix – after all, we still have to deliver a race for our fans, our partners, and for everybody working hard in Woking, Sakura and Milton Keynes. 

"But we've adopted a different approach, trying some different ways of working to see if we can do things better or if we can learn something useful for the future."

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

"We came to Baku armed with an update for Fernando's PU, which we ran during both practice sessions today. Working through our programme in accordance with today's schedule, I can confirm that we were able to see the effectiveness of the update in the data. 

"It was disappointing that Fernando had to stop the car during FP2, and unfortunately for us it was before doing his timed lap, but we still saw certain progress with the power of the PU. Overall, I regard today as positive – we didn't have any major issues with the new spec PU, and I feel that we've taken an encouraging step forward. 

"Although it was Stoffel's first time at this circuit, he had a good first outing, and we were able to work through his programme in accordance with our schedule. As this is a power-hungry circuit with long straights, tomorrow's qualifying will no doubt be tough for us, but, as always, we'll keep pushing to do our best."

Sauber

Sauber generated plenty of headlines ahead of the weekend in Baku - but in contrast their Friday was relatively quiet. Both Ericsson and Wehrlein went through their normal routines without drama. That said, they found themselves further off the pace than expected, leaving them with work to do.

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:49.937, P20; FP2: 1:47.347, P19

"It has not been a good day for us here in Baku – it was difficult to begin FP1 on medium tyres, so I did not get off to the best start. I found it interesting to try out different mechanical updates throughout the practice sessions. Analysing the data will allow us to decide how to move forward for the rest of the weekend. I am looking forward to FP3 and qualifying tomorrow."

Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:49.048, P19; FP2: 1:47.150, P18

"It was a rather challenging Friday for us. It was positive that we were able to try out various car setups, and that we could work through our programme for the day. We knew that the track layout would be a challenge to our pace, however did not anticipate the full extent to which it would impact our performance. We are now working towards making improvements for the rest of the weekend."

Force India

Ocon had a good day and was always in the top 10, but Perez blotted his copybook here for the second year in a row after smacking his VJM10 into the wall in Turn 8 when he used to much of the left-hand kerb. The team did an excellent job to repair significant damage in time for FP2, when he was again very quick, so tails remain up for tomorrow.

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:45.398, P4; FP2: 1:44.306, P7

"First and foremost, I want to thank my mechanics and the whole team for fixing the car so quickly. They are some of the best guys in the pit lane and they showed exactly why. This morning was all about trying to find the limits, and I think we did – it was good it happened today rather than tomorrow. It was a bit of a messy day, not just with what happened in FP1 but also because of all the yellow and red flags breaking the flow of the sessions. I still think we are in a good position. Tonight we will need to work out the best set-up: I feel we have a good potential for the weekend, we just have to put it all together when it matters."

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:45.752, P7; FP2: 1:44.484, P9

"I'm pretty happy about today. We had good pace in the car and I felt quite comfortable right from the start. I feel we couldn't really show our speed because of all the yellow flags and the traffic I found on my quick laps, but it doesn't matter. The important days for this weekend are yet to come. It was my first time around this circuit, so the priority was to keep out of trouble: this is not an easy track to learn but I enjoy the challenge. It's a narrow circuit and it's very easy to brake a bit too late, which is why there were so many yellow flags."

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

"It was not the most straightforward of Fridays, with Sergio's unfortunate crash during the first practice session. The crew did a truly fantastic job to replace all the broken components and get the car out for the start of FP2, which allowed us to complete a full programme this afternoon. Aside from the incident, it was a productive day. We witnessed a lot of track evolution, which is normal for a temporary street circuit: together with the conservative range of tyre compounds, it meant a lot of our work was about understanding the tyres and getting them to work. The sessions had a lot of interruptions, with many yellow and red flags, which disrupted everyone's performance runs, so we chose to focus on high fuel running. We were also able to split some test items between the two cars. We have plenty to analyse tonight – the initial feeling is positive but there is always room for improvement. Our performance today was reasonable, but it is still too early to tell where we stand."

Red Bull

A great day for Red Bull, with both drivers setting the pace in FP1, and running 1-3 in FP2. Both drivers were as happy as they could be with the track in the condition it was in, but Verstappen described the accident with which he needed F2 as 'weird'.

The team have also played their gear ratios joker while undertaking a regular gearbox change, thus enabling themselves to optimise the ratios for this track and for the revisions to the Renault engine which include remapping.

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:44.410, P1; FP2: 1:43.362, P1

“The whole day has been really positive, except the last lap, everything has been working well. From lap one I felt comfortable in the car, it was handling really well and I was confident with the setup. I think the preparation we did at the factory and in the simulator has allowed us to come here with a strong setup and competitive car from the go. This has definitely been the most positive Friday of the year so far. In the second session I felt I couldn’t get the maximum out of the short run pace due to yellow flags and traffic so we can be very happy to still finish P1. It feels like the cars are quicker through the corners this year, this means if you have a lock up in can be more critical. We are confident heading into qualifying but also wary that Mercedes will turn their engines up a bit. We are on top at the end of Friday which means they have to catch up so it will be exciting in the session tomorrow. At the end I locked up at turn 1, I could see I wasn’t going to make the corner so decided to take the run off, as I turned right I lost the rear and ended up sliding into the wall.”

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:44.880, P2; FP2: 1:43.473, P3

“It’s been a good day for myself and Max and great that we were in the top three in both sessions. Even though I was second fastest this morning I wasn’t fully content with my session and I knew there was still room to improve in myself and the car. I believe we made those improvements this afternoon and I’m generally a lot happier with where we ended the day. This afternoon was a lot more entertaining, the grip was coming and you could really start to push the car. There’s not much room for error and it’s a pretty high risk circuit in terms of mistakes but that makes it really challenging and rewarding. When you are able to put in a good lap you cross the finish line and smile. Like always, we should not celebrate on a Friday but we are in the ball park, so hopefully tomorrow we can stay at the front.”

Mercedes

Both drivers struggled to find a decent balance and suffered with the front tyres failing to come up to temperature in FP1, but Bottas was happier with things in the afternoon. Hamilton said there is still a lot of work to be done to hone the car and find its sweet spot for FP3 and qualifying, and was not happy with the tyres.

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:45.737, P6; FP2: 1:43.462, P2

“Practice one was quite tricky: we were struggling with the setup of the car and it wasn't so well balanced. Today, we needed multiple laps in a row to generate the temperatures we want for a good balance. FP1 wasn't a happy session, but we made some changes ahead of FP2 and the car definitely felt more comfortable. We are moving in the right direction and hopefully we'll make another step this evening. We'll work hard and if we can find those gains we'll be right up there fighting for pole position.”

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:45.497, P5; FP2: 1:44.525, P10

“It was a difficult day out there. This circuit is a tough one and we had a few challenges that we tried to work through today. We've clearly still got lots of work to do ahead of qualifying, but Valtteri's time in FP2 looked promising, so there is obviously pace in the car, which is encouraging. Now it's just a case of getting our heads together tonight to work out exactly how to extract that pace across the entire weekend.”

James Allison, Technical Director

“It was a scrappy day punctuated every few seconds by dozens and dozens of off-track frolics. The associated yellow flags interrupted the rhythm at a circuit where it is quite challenging to get temperature into the tyres, especially the fronts, and that as much as anything dictated your position on the leader board today. However, we have work to do overnight to make the car's handling sweeter, as both drivers were struggling to get temperature into the front tyres and, as a consequence, suffering with front locking. There is going to be a lot more lap time to come from all of the front runners as the track rubbers in and the drivers gain in confidence. It's already close at the front, so I expect that those who work well overnight, and keep a cool head tomorrow, will be rewarded in qualifying and the race.”

Williams

Williams had a very good day in the circumstances, with Stroll building his confidence significantly after scoring his first points in Canada, and he never put a wheel wrong all day on his way to sixth. Massa was badly affected by traffic in FP2, but is adamant that they are well in the mix in the upper midfield.

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:46.649, P11; FP2: 1:44.113, P6

“That was good fun, as I am enjoying the track. The car was working well and we didn't have any issues, which was great. I felt the balance was good and now we just need to think overnight, improve on little bits, come back tomorrow and continue pushing. I think what was really positive was we didn’t have any issues, and nothing that got in the way of us running our programmes. What was really important for me on this kind of track was to get confidence on every lap and every run. Today we did exactly that and didn't lose any laps with problems or stuff going wrong. Things could be better, as this is still the first day of my first time here and we could improve for the qualifying run, but all in all I have to say it was a very positive day in many ways.”

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:45.968, P8; FP2: 1:44.609, P11

“It was a good day. I was happy with the car. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really put together a lap on fresh tyres, because of the traffic and the yellow flags. But, I was happy with the balance and I was happy with the long runs. The little mistakes that we made today weren’t a big problem, because we didn’t damage anything, which is always a positive thing here. We’re definitely in the fight, so I hope that we can put everything together for qualifying tomorrow.”

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

“It was a pretty good day and we completed the intended programme. On Lance’s side that involved learning the circuit, as he’s not been here before and it’s quite a tricky track. I’m pleased to say that he drove very well. He progressively built up his pace and managed to put himself sixth in FP2, and he never went off the circuit, which makes him one of a few drivers who had a clean day. So it was a great job by Lance. Felipe did a number of tests for us, but was probably the worst off in terms of traffic throughout the day. It’s been a very scrappy day with a lot of yellow flags and a lot of traffic, so he wasn’t able to put a good lap together in FP2. But we got some good data from his long runs. It’s extremely competitive out there, with some other teams looking fast. So, we’ll work hard on understanding the performance of the car tonight to make sure that we’re in a strong position for qualifying tomorrow.”

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso spent the first 40 minutes of F1 doing some basic work, then baselined both cars to start the set-up process. Despite losing valuable time they felt they had a reasonable handle by the end of FP2, though only Kvyat got a clear lap. Like Red Bull, Toro Rosso played their gear ratio joker as they changed transmissions.

Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:46.617, P10; FP2: 1:44.321, P8

“The run programme today was a bit compressed but, nevertheless, we were able to complete most of it, even though I wasn’t able to do as many laps as I would’ve liked to. At least the ones we did were good, even though not everything is clear as conditions were very tricky – it was very easy to make a mistake out there today and we will just try and put it all together tomorrow and see where we are. I don’t think we’re in a bad situation but we need to keep going forward… Tomorrow is a new day!”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:47.501, P16; FP2: 1:45.733, P13

“Not the easiest of days. In this morning’s FP1 we had a few issues with the balance of the car and we weren’t able to get it right straight away. This meant that we had to do some changes before FP2 and in this afternoon’s session I felt a lot more comfortable with the car. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get to exploit this improvement because of all the traffic or yellow flags… I think I did about 15 laps on the supersoft but didn’t manage to push during any of them! At least everyone else has been in this same situation, so it’s very difficult to judge where we are. I expect us to improve as soon as we put a lap together on the supersoft tyres tomorrow.”

Jody Egginton, Head of Vehicle Performance

“Both cars had a big test program for FP1and, as such, we dedicated the first 40 minutes to covering a number of specific items. With this completed, the cars were then configured for baseline runs on the supersoft compound. However, with a red flag disrupting the session, we were not able to get a complete read on the baseline set-ups of both cars. Nevertheless, the laps we completed did allow for some quantified set-up changes to be made over the break. Car performance in FP2 was a step in the right direction for both drivers and baseline runs on both the soft and supersoft compounds provided good information regarding set-up direction, especially regarding tyres. With a massive number of yellow flags in the session, Carlos was not able to complete a clean lap on his new supersoft tyre, whilst Daniil did manage a clean lap, so we did gather the necessary data. Both cars moved to long runs but, again with yellow flags causing further disruption, it was not easy to get into a rhythm for both drivers. Overall car balance is okey and, although there is some work to do overnight in order to take the next step for FP3, we are looking forward to the rest of the weekend’s challenges.”

Haas

Magnussen had a reasonable day, but Grosjean was not a happy boy as he had escape road visit after escape road visit. The Frenchman’s problem centred around trying to find the right brake balance - a lingering problem for the team.

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:46.837, P13; FP2: 1:47.722, P20

“A frustrating afternoon – the feeling just wasn’t there. There’s not really much I can say, to be honest. I just had no feeling in the car. That’s obviously something that we need to look at a lot more depth as we’ve effectively lost a session heading into Saturday. Lots of work to do but, hopefully, we can focus and identify the issues and put it right.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:46.721, P12; FP2: 1:45.831, P14

“It wasn’t too bad today. I think we had a decent day. There’s a lot to look at. This track is pretty special and unique, so we’ll see if we can improve the car for tomorrow. It’s a very fun track to drive. There’s a lot to take in and you’re finding a lot of speed every lap. It’s good to be able to do laps without too many problems on the car. I’m happy with the day.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“We had a good morning session, but in the afternoon we struggled with everything a little bit. Between traffic, going straight, no feeling in the car – it’s just like we have to start from the beginning. We need to see what changed between FP1 and FP2. A night of hard work is in front of the guys, but let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head Of Car Racing

“As expected on any temporary circuit, it was a particularly slippery start in Baku with a very green track and smooth surface. The layout of this track is a test of traction in particular, with the rear tyres doing all of the work. On top of that, there are only short corners in Baku, which means that the fronts are less stressed, and they also cool down a bit on the long straights between those corners. Consequently, finding the right set-up to ensure the correct balance between front and rear tyre temperature is essential to a strong performance here – as we saw in Russia, Monaco and Canada as well – and this is what a lot of the work concentrated on today. When analysing today’s data, we have to bear in mind as well that the track will evolve further as the weekend goes on.”