Max Verstappen set the pace in an eventful and frantic FP1 in Baku, though Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc positioned himself as a major threat come qualifying.
There was no time to waste in the only practice session of the Azerbaijan GP weekend as the drivers flooded out of the pit lane, but there was lost time for several competitors out there.
Lewis Hamilton’s early running was scuppered by braking issues, complaining of a “passive” pedal as Mercedes called him back to the pits to investigate. George Russell soon started reporting similar issues.
Carlos Sainz was able to escape his hit of the wall without damage to the Ferrari, but Yuki Tsunoda was not to lucky as he caused a right-rear puncture on his AlphaTauri. A rather speedy return to the pits against the clock seemingly only further intensified the damage.
To that point the session had managed to avoid a red flag delay, but that arrived when firstly Pierre Gasly’s Alpine caught fire, causing him to park it out of the castle section and make a quick exit, before Kevin Magnussen was then forced to stop the Haas car down at Turn 1.
The second half of the session featured less drama, albeit there were DRS issues for Fernando Alonso, as Sergio Perez went top of the session from Leclerc in the Ferrari and Red Bull team-mate Verstappen.
It looked like this could be how FP1 was going to finish, but the drivers pushed right until the chequered flag, Verstappen finding a couple of tenths to set the ultimate pace with a 1:42.315, Leclerc falling just 0.037s short with Perez forced to settle for P3.
Neither Hamilton nor Russell set a push lap on the soft tyre in the closing stages as the drivers geared up for qualifying, leaving a question mark over the pace within that Mercedes W14.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN 1:42.315
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.037
3 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.139
4 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.584
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.810
6 Nyck DE VRIES AlphaTauri +1.099
7 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.140
8 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.245
9 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.313
10 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.433
11 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +1.483
12 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +1.665
13 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.695
14 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.822
15 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +2.008
16 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.585
17 George RUSSELL Mercedes +2.767
18 Esteban OCON Alpine +3.640
19 Pierre GASLY Alpine +4.006
20 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +5.183