Hamil­ton dom­i­nates Euro­pean Grand Prix prac­tice in Azer­bai­jan

The Herald - Herald Sport - - FINAL SAY - PHILIP DUN­CAN

LEWIS HAMIL­TON proved he is the man to beat on For­mula One’s first visit to Azer­bai­jan af­ter com­plet­ing a prac­tice dou­ble at the Baku Street Cir­cuit yes­ter­day.

The triple world cham­pion was nearly four-tenths of a sec­ond clear of his Mercedes team-mate Nico Ros­berg in the open­ing ses­sion be­fore later ex­tend­ing that ad­van­tage to al­most seven-tenths af­ter post­ing a best lap of one minute and 44.223 sec­onds.

Ros­berg’s day then took a turn for the worse af­ter he re­ported a prob­lem with his Mercedes, and was told to stop his car on track with 20 min­utes of the af­ter­noon ses­sion re­main­ing.

For­mula One is mak­ing its first foray to the oil-rich state, and the open­ing day of ac­tion on the streets of Baku, its cap­i­tal city, was not without in­ci­dent.

In­deed the sec­ond 90-minute prac­tice ses­sion for the Euro­pean Grand Prix was thrown into doubt af­ter qual­i­fy­ing for GP2 – For­mula One’s feeder se­ries – was aban­doned due to safety con­cerns with the kerb­ing at turns six and 12. FIA of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing race di­rec­tor Char­lie Whit­ing, spent the two-and-a-half hour pe­riod in be­tween yes­ter­day’s prac­tice ses­sions try­ing to re­solve the is­sue.

“Some small bolts had come loose at the end of the kerbs on turns six and 12, so we’ve taken the bolts out and welded the kerbs to each other,” Whit­ing, said. “Ev­ery­thing’s new, they’ve done the best they could, and we just needed to do a bit of fix­ing.”

But just mo­ments into the sec­ond ses­sion, turn six con­tin­ued to be a prob­lem. The driv­ers were sub­se­quently or­dered by race con­trol not to use the kerbs on the exit of the turn in ques­tion, with the FIA set to ex­am­ine the area af­ter prac­tice.

While Jen­son But­ton, the 2009 world cham­pion, feared the lack of run-off area at a street cir­cuit which has been billed as the quick­est in For­mula One his­tory, could con­trib­ute to a big ac­ci­dent, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo was the only driver to find him­self in the wall. 200 Ren­field Street, Glas­gow G2 3QB. email: sport@the­herald.co.uk. Tel 0141 302 7156 Sports ed­i­tor Gary Ke­own / Deputy sports ed­i­tor Gor­don Steven­son

Ric­cia­rdo lost con­trol of his Red Bull in the open­ing ses­sion at turn 15, and while the im­pact was rel­a­tively mi­nor, it was enough to dam­age the right rear of his car. Mirac­u­lously Ric­cia­rdo’s team per­formed a prompt turn­around to get his car ready for sec­ond prac­tice.

But it was not a good day for Red Bull and in­deed Fer­rari with both teams well off the pace of Mercedes.

To make mat­ters worse for Fer­rari, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel – who could only post a lap good enough for eighth – had to limp back to the pits as the ses­sion closed.

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