Lewis Hamilton claimed the inaugural practice P1 in Baku as he set the pace in first practice, a session that was red flagged when Daniel Ricciardo crashed at Turn 15.
As Formula 1 stepped into the unknown in Baku, it was a session for ever-improving lap times and several journeys down the escape roads.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had the better of the early running on the soft tyres before they were pipped by Valtteri Bottas. A 1:47.707 for the Williams, on a lap in which he reached a top speed of 351kph, put him P1.
Mercedes were the first out on the supersoft tyres, the softest that Pirelli have brought with them this weekend to Azerbaijan.
Hamilton retook P1 with a 1:46.489, which put him 0.323s up on Rosberg’s best.
Having secured his P1, Hamilton set about exploring the track’s limits with a few errors creeping in as he added his name to the ever-growing list of those having to use the track’s escape roads with Turn 1, Turn 2, Turn 3 and Turn 15 proving the most popular.
However, his efforts also resulted in a brush with the wall at Turn 3. “I’ve hit a wall guys,” he said.
Minutes later Baku experienced its first proper F1 crash as Daniel Ricciardo hit the wall hard at Turn 15, causing significant damage to the rear of his RB12. The rear right tyre was hanging on only by its tether.
This resulted in the red flags being waved as the marshals brought out a tractor to remove the car while they swept any debris off the track.
The session resumed with 13 minutes remaining without Ricciardo and without Hamilton, as Mercedes revealed he had flat-spotted the tyres they intended him to use for a long run and therefore would sit out the remainder of the session.
He still finished P1 ahead of Rosberg, 0.377s up on the German, while Bottas was third, 0.661s off the pace. The Williams driver’s time was set on the soft tyres.
Fernando Alonso was fourth for McLaren ahead of Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa.
Carlos Sainz, who tapped his front wing against the Turn 15 barrier, made a late improvement to P9 ahead of Nico Hulkenberg.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:46.435 23 laps
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:46.812 0.377 32 laps
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:47.096 0.661 34 laps
4 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:47.989 1.554 21 laps
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:48.627 2.192 26 laps
6 Sergio Perez Force India 1:48.922 2.487 17 laps
7 Jenson Button McLaren 1:49.019 2.584 21 laps
8 Felipe Massa Williams 1:49.125 2.690 22 laps
9 Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso 1:49.267 2.832 16 laps
10 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:49.301 2.866 27 laps
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:49.611 3.176 20 laps
12 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:49.635 3.200 16 laps
13 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:49.778 3.343 17 laps
14 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:50.167 3.732 25 laps
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:50.473 4.038 18 laps
16 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:50.485 4.050 7 laps
17 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:50.551 4.116 19 laps
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:50.910 4.475 25 laps
19 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:50.939 4.504 27 laps
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:51.219 4.784 24 laps
21 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:51.771 5.336 11 laps
22 Rio Haryanto Manor 1:51.925 5.490 28 laps