More woes for McLaren in Baku

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

RED BULL’S Max Ver­stap­pen clocked the fastest lap in both of yes­ter­day’s prac­tices ahead of the Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix to­mor­row, but ended the sec­ond ses­sion in the wall af­ter spin­ning off.

Ver­stap­pen topped first prac­tice with a time of 1:44.410, with team mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo fin­ish­ing four tenths behind him to en­sure a Red Bull one-two, be­fore the Dutch teenager capped an ex­cel­lent day with an im­proved time of 1:43.362 in the sec­ond ses­sion.

The only dis­ap­point­ment for the pace­set­ter came when he ap­peared to lose con­trol late on be­fore spin­ning side­ways into the ad­ver­tis­ing hoard­ings.

“It was very weird,” Ver­stap­pen told Sky Sports. “I locked up and was still try­ing to make the cor­ner, but I tried to play it safe and take the exit road.

“Sud­denly I lost the rear and then I just had a four-wheel power slide into the bar­rier.”

It was a scrappy day punc­tu­ated by sev­eral mis­judg­ments on the scorch­ing Baku cir­cuit.

Force In­dia’s Ser­gio Perez had been fly­ing through the city cir­cuit and reg­is­tered the fourth best time in the first ses­sion be­fore crash­ing late on.

He es­caped un­scathed af­ter col­lid­ing with the ex­ter­nal wall at a nar­row sec­tion at Turn Eight, and although his car lost its rear right wheel, Force In­dia me­chan­ics suc­ceeded in re­pair­ing it for Perez to fin­ish sev­enth in P2.

In the evening, Jolyon Palmer of Re­nault also crashed into the bar­ri­ers af­ter mis­judg­ing Turn Eight.

Cham­pi­onship leader Se­bas­tian Vet­tel on the soft com­pound tyre reg­is­tered times of 1:44.967 and 1.43.615, fin­ish­ing third and fifth.

“I think it was very close to­day,” he said. “I hope it’s close to­mor­row and hope we come out on top.”

It was a mixed day for Mercedes duo Lewis Hamil­ton and Valt­teri Bot­tas.

The Finn, who hit a For­mula One record top speed of 373kmh last year, went into a spin at Turn 10 dur­ing the first prac­tice, but re­cov­ered to fin­ish sec­ond, a tenth behind Ver­stap­pen, in the evening’s ses­sion.

Hamil­ton recorded the best time in each of the three prac­tice ses­sions in Baku last year, be­fore a crash in qual­i­fy­ing ru­ined his chances of suc­cess.

He looked un­com­fort­able yes­ter­day, had a near miss with Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen on Turn One and fin­ished the sec­ond prac­tice in tenth, 1.163 behind Ver­stap­pen.

“I think you need to get into a rhythm in Baku, do laps to gain con­fi­dence and have the tyres in the right win­dow,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

“We had a bit of a messy ses­sion, a lot of traf­fic, a lot of yel­low flags and we didn’t put him out at the right time.”

McLaren- Honda duo Fer­nando Alonso and Stof­fel Van­doorne were both slapped with a 15-place penalty and are likely to start to­mor­row’s race at the back of the grid af­ter pick­ing up more en­gine penal­ties. – Reuters

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