European GP | Baku makes its Formula One debut as Hamilton tops FP1

Lewis Hamilton tops the first ever Formula One free practice session at the European Grand Prix.

The narrow streets of Baku made their Formula One debut, with Ricciardo falling foul of the walls as Hamilton ended the session fastest as the drivers stepped into the unknown. The first run around the Azerbaijan capital did not however go perfectly for Lewis, as he clipped the wall to end his session.

To make history as the first man to lap the Azerbaijan capital, Esteban Gutierrez broke the silence as he crept out of the pits while Palmer parked to the side for a practice start.

And it was not long before times were hitting the leaderboard as Rosberg, Hamilton and Bottas found their feet. With Rosberg’s initial 1:57.306 over 10-seconds off the eventual session pace.

As the grip levels rose throughout the session with the track cleaning, Hamilton and Rosberg lowered the benchmark more and more as confidence built throughout the field. Hamilton incidentally had not completed a lap of the circuit before turning up in Baku for the race weekend, whereas drivers such as Bottas had completed full race simulations at the factories.

The lack of running though did not stop Hamilton, as he became the first to dip into the 1:49s, 1:48s and eventually the 1:46s. Lack of running though may have played a part in his session ending incident as he attempted to get closer and closer to the outside wall at turn three before clipping it with his rear-right tyre.

Lewis had already locked up at turn three prior to clipping the barrier, and along with a lock up at turn one, Hamilton had too badly black-spotted his tyres for their intended long run.

Hamilton’s kiss of the barrier also marked the start for other drivers to over-do the corners as Ricciardo carried too much speed through turn 16 and tore off the rear right corner of his Red Bull. Daniel also damaged the rear wing as he sprayed debris across the track, bringing out the first red flag of the weekend.

Daniel’s crash marked the end of a bad session for Red Bull as Max Verstappen was only able to complete a handful of early laps before an oil leak caused the team to box the car. Mechanics worked heavily throughout the session to work on his Red Bull, including taking off the floor and gearbox, but were not able to fix the oil leak in time for Verstappen to run again.

Early running by Ricciardo and Verstappen, along with the works-Renault team, showed the Renault power unit to potentially be running out of recovered energy before the end of the lap. As over the course of the second longest lap on the calendar, the Renault powered cars rear red blinker lights flicked on to suggest the cars were harvesting more energy.

The Honda power unit, along with the Renault unit, also appeared to lack the grunt come the end of the pit straight. The possible lack of power however did not prevent Alonso from ending the 90-minutes in fourth place, ahead of Sebastian Vettel by six tenths.

Like in the GP2 practice prior to Formula One’s debut session in Baku, the limited run-off areas found their use as a handful of drivers left it too late to make the corners. The down-hill, off camber entry to turn 15 particularly caused drivers issues under braking along with turning around in the narrow run-off.

For comparison, the fastest lap in GP2 practice was set by Norman Nato with a 1:55.394. As for the slowest lap in Formula One practice, that was set by Rio Haryanto with a 1:51.925.

Pos Driver Laps Time Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton 23 1’46.435  —
2 Nico Rosberg 32 1’46.812 0.377
3 Valtteri Bottas 34 1’47.096 0.661
4 Fernando Alonso 21 1’47.989 1.554
5 Sebastian Vettel 26 1’48.627 2.192
6 Sergio Perez 17 1’48.922 2.487
7 Jenson Button 21 1’49.019 2.584
8 Felipe Massa 22 1’49.125 2.69
9 Carlos Sainz Jr. 16 1’49.267 2.832
10 Nico Hulkenberg 27 1’49.301 2.866
11 Romain Grosjean 20 1’49.611 3.176
12 Kimi Raikkonen 16 1’49.635 3.2
13 Daniel Ricciardo 17 1’49.778 3.343
14 Esteban Gutierrez 25 1’50.167 3.732
15 Marcus Ericsson 18 1’50.473 4.038
16 Max Verstappen 7 1’50.485 4.05
17 Daniil Kvyat 19 1’50.551 4.116
18 Jolyon Palmer 25 1’50.910 4.475
19 Kevin Magnussen 27 1’50.939 4.504
20 Pascal Wehrlein 24 1’51.219 4.784
21 Felipe Nasr 11 1’51.771 5.336
22 Rio Haryanto 28 1’51.925 5.49