Max Verstappen tops Charles Leclerc in competitive practice at Baku City Circuit; a fire on Pierre Gasly’s Alpine saw the chaotic session red flagged; watch Azerbaijan GP Qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 at 2pm on Friday, with build-up from 1pm
Last Updated: 28/04/23 11:56am
Max Verstappen edged out Charles Leclerc to top a crucial and chaotic practice session at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Qualifying in Baku later on Friday.
With the Baku City Circuit hosting Formula 1’s first Sprint weekend of the season – and the first in a new format for 2023, Verstappen’s 1:42.315 snatched first from Ferrari’s Leclerc by just 0.037s, with the Dutchman’s Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez a further tenth back in third.
Friday’s opening 60-minute session, the only practice of the weekend under the new format, took on additional significance as teams and drivers attempted to prepare for Friday afternoon’s qualifying, Saturday’s Sprint qualifying and race, and Sunday’s Grand Prix.
The challenge facing the teams was heightened as 13 minutes of the session were lost following a red flag caused by Pierre Gasly’s Alpine catching fire.
While Alpine, who withdrew Gasly’s team-mate Esteban Ocon from the remaining 32 minutes of the session after the incident, were undoubtedly the major losers, several other drivers and teams faced issues.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who finished fourth, got away with an early brush of the wall at Turn 5, while AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda was less fortunate as he suffered a puncture after clipping the barrier at Turn 3.
Mercedes were hampered by early brake issues and opted not to do any soft-tyre running as Lewis Hamilton finished 11th with team-mate George Russell in 17th.
More to follow…