Max Verstappen

Baku FP2: Verstappen fastest but it’s very close

Max Verstappen

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen secured the fastest time before crashing at the end of a chaotic second practice Friday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The 19-year-old Dutchman, also fastest in the first practice, was narrowly ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Verstappen’s best lap time of 1:43.362 was almost a second up on the best time set at the same venue last year.

But it was no all smooth running for the Red Bull driver, with 30 seconds remaining in the session he lost control of the rear of his car and slid into the barriers. He climbed out, took his helmet off and examined the car, anxious to see if there was any serious damage that needs repairing.

It seemed a fitting way to end the day, considering the Baku street circuit had been like an ice rink, with drivers sliding around as they constantly struggled for grip and balance.

Formula 1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest, with Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen fifth.

Lewis Hamilton, trailing Vettel by 12 points, preferred not to take risks ahead of the third practice and qualifying on Saturday. He finished the second session in 10th. But even driving very much within himself on a misbehaving track, he still almost crashed into Raikkonen.

The highly treacherous Turn 8 caused severe problems all day.

Force India driver Sergio Perez, who had crashed on Turn 8 in the opening session earlier Friday, almost ploughed straight back into the same barrier in the second. British driver Jolyon Palmer did just that, bringing the red flag out and briefly halting the session midway through.

Vettel, twice, and Williams driver Felipe Massa both had near misses on the same turn, while Ricciardo was instructed on team radio to take precautionary measures and go very wide heading into it Turn 8 to give himself room.

On another frustrating day for Fernando Alonso, the Spanish driver ended up helping mechanics wheel his car away after the engine blew with about 30 minutes left.

Alonso then stood and wistfully watched from behind the protective barriers, hands on hips, which was seemingly a better option than going back to a despondent team garage.

McLaren is the only team not to score a point this season and continues to be blighted by its unreliable Honda engine, prompting growing speculation that management is out of patience and considering a deal with Mercedes as its engine supplier.

Verstappen also posted the fastest time in the morning’s first free practice session ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel.

When FP2 got underway, track temperatures were at a blistering 54 degrees C. That dropped to a less demanding 44 degrees C when the second session started at 5 p.m. local time – the same time as Sunday’s race – it promises to be a tricky one.

The 6-kilometer circuit glides through the city’s medieval walls and passes the Caspian sea. With F1’s fastest top speed, and its combination of long straights and hard-braking corners, it poses big problems for grip.

In the opening practice session, Bottas narrowly missed the barriers while Perez mangled both wheels on the right of his car on Turn 8.

Drivers were being severely tested in other sections, too. Daniil Kvyat sent debris onto the track after clipping the barriers with his Toro Rosso on Turn 14, while Sauber driver Marcus Ericcson was sliding everywhere near the end of the second session.

Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean was slowest and ranted constantly about brake trouble on his Haas car.

Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku City Circuit – Free Practice 2, Best Lap Times

133Max VerstappenRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:43.362 36
277Valtteri BottasMERCEDES1:43.462+0.100s32
33Daniel RicciardoRED BULL RACING TAG HEUER1:43.473+0.111s34
47Kimi RäikkönenFERRARI1:43.489+0.127s35
55Sebastian VettelFERRARI1:43.615+0.253s35
618Lance StrollWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:44.113+0.751s27
711Sergio PerezFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:44.306+0.944s34
826Daniil KvyatTORO ROSSO1:44.321+0.959s27
931Esteban OconFORCE INDIA MERCEDES1:44.484+1.122s37
1044Lewis HamiltonMERCEDES1:44.525+1.163s23
1119Felipe MassaWILLIAMS MERCEDES1:44.609+1.247s33
1214Fernando AlonsoMCLAREN HONDA1:45.515+2.153s15
1355Carlos SainzTORO ROSSO1:45.733+2.371s34
1420Kevin MagnussenHAAS FERRARI1:45.831+2.469s33
1527Nico HulkenbergRENAULT1:46.003+2.641s29
1630Jolyon PalmerRENAULT1:46.061+2.699s17
172Stoffel VandoorneMCLAREN HONDA1:46.174+2.812s28
1894Pascal WehrleinSAUBER FERRARI1:47.150+3.788s25
199Marcus EricssonSAUBER FERRARI1:47.347+3.985s25
208Romain GrosjeanHAAS FERRARI1:47.722+4.360s22