Verstappen on top as Red Bull dominate opening practice

The Dutch teenager clocked the fastest lap in one minute and 44.410 seconds to outpace his Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.470 seconds.

Verstappen clocked the fastest lap, as Red Bull dominated the opening free practice session.   -  AFP

 

Max Verstappen topped the times ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, as the main championship contenders struggled in Friday's incident-packed opening free practice session for this weekend's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

In hot conditions at the demanding Baku street circuit, the Dutch teenager clocked a best lap in one minute and 44.410 seconds to outpace his Australian team-mate by 0.470 seconds, the two Red Bulls dominating the session.

World championship leader and four-time champion, Sebastian Vettel, was the third fastest for Ferrari, in a session interrupted in the closing stages by a big accident when Mexican Sergio Perez crashed close to the castle walls.

 

 

The Force India driver was the fourth fastest in the session which was red-flagged to a halt to clear the debris from the circuit. Perez was unhurt in the collision, but his car was damaged badly and the right front wheel became untethered and bounced down away on the circuit, without injuring anyone.

Three-time champion, Lewis Hamilton, was the fifth fastest, ahead of his Mercedes team-mate Finn Valtteri Bottas, both men more than a second adrift of Verstappen's pace-setting lap.

The session began with an ambient temperature of 28 degrees and the track at 53 degrees Celsius, with Frenchman Romain Grosjean quickly showing the power of his Ferrari engined Haas car in the heat on the long straight.

Brazilian Felipe Massa of Williams also topped the times, as the lap-timings tumbled and most drivers endured spins and 'moments' on the slippery and tricky track that takes in part of the ancient city of Baku.

Finn Kimi Raikkonen, in the second Ferrari, Bottas, Briton Jolyon Palmer of Renault and Grosjean, all had big spins before Perez's spectacular shunt, hitting a kerb to the left before losing control.

Impressive young Frenchman, Esteban Ocon, was seventh in the second Force India ahead of Massa, Raikkonen and Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso.