Hamilton fastest in successive sessions at the European Grand Prix.
Day one in Baku for Formula One ends with Lewis Hamilton still on top. Hamilton had topped the morning session for Azerbaijan’s debut Grand Prix, before tyre-cutting kerbs became the focus and GP2 qualifying was forced into postponement.
When Formula One broke ground in Azerbaijan with Gutierrez crawling out of the pits, the sport was entering into the unknown on the narrow streets of Baku. Even after 90-minutes thing were not clear as Hamilton and Rosberg found Bottas and Alonso as their closest challengers, while Red Bull and Ferrari lingered down the leaderboard.
Unfortunately for Baku though, the first free practice session highlighted a concern with the metal kerbs installed. With teams reporting to Pirelli that the kerbs were cutting the tyres.
As a result, Pirelli informed the FIA and the marshals got to work welding the kerbs together to reduce the chance of further cutting. Also causing GP2 qualifying to be postponed.
Once work was completed, Formula One’s second practice session was underway at its scheduled time. However early running highlighted the kerbs once more, as the final piece of exit kerb at turn six flicked up when Vettel looked to use the full track width. Leading the race director to advise drivers to avoid using the kerb.
Among the early runners in FP2, with Vettel, were Ricciardo and Grosjean. After Red Bull had worked quickly between sessions to mend Daniel’s heavily damaged car following his FP1 crash in order for further running. As for Grosjean, his early running could have ended there, as his Haas snapped sideways under braking forcing him in to a strong save.
While Grosjean was turning around in the turn one run off, Ericsson was watching on from the pit lane as his Sauber team continued to work on his engine change. Sauber were forced to change Marcus’ engine between sessions after they noticed an exhaust problem with his C35.
As for Force India, the Silverstone based team were setting the early pace as Perez and Hulkenberg posted identical lap times in the high 1:47s. Fernando Alonso though demoted the Force India’s as the McLaren went fastest to build on his top four from the first session.
Although the Mercedes duo topped the time sheet soon after Alonso’s P1 lap, McLaren continued to show well with Button as Jenson moved sixth. The real test for McLaren will come tomorrow however, as McLaren tend to show strongly on a Friday before other teams turn their engine modes up on Saturday in a way McLaren cannot with their Honda units.
Another test for McLaren will come with Alonso’s car, as Fernando was forced to box with a gearbox issue. The issue developed towards the end of a lap as Fernando could not change gear, causing him to switch the engine off. But wise thinking by Alonso led him to unlatch his seatbelt so he could reach out the car and find the marshal’s emergency neutral button on the outside of the car’s nose in order for him to coast back in to the pits.
As mentioned, the Mercedes duo demoted Alonso from the top spot. The team would continue to hold on to those positions throughout the session. Although the fastest lap did swap hands between Rosberg and Hamilton a few times, as Lewis looked to carry more speed trough turn 16. He initially though ran wide and was forced to try again before going seven tenths clear of Rosberg.
Earlier laps by Hamilton and Rosberg saw the pair separated by just two tenths, as Hamilton’s early soft tyre pace was close to Rosberg’s super-soft tyre pace.
As for Ferrari, their flying pace was far off the Mercedes’ mark. Allowing Force India and Williams to move ahead of them. But for race pace, consistent 1:49s by Vettel suggested the Ferrari might be able to score well on Sunday.
Ferrari will though need to assess MGU-K issues on both cars over night, with Vettel struggling late on as Raikkonen locked the rears and parked at turn 5. Rosberg too had issues in FP2, with the championship leader forced to retire with 21-minutes remaining while stuck in fourth gear.
|6||Carlos Sainz Jr.||35||1’46.027||1.804|