Valtteri Bottas quickest as Max Verstappen crashes out of opening practice in Baku
Azerbaijan Grand Prix - FP1

Valtteri Bottas quickest as Max Verstappen crashes out of opening practice in Baku

Valtteri Bottas topped the opening practice session ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Max Verstappen's scrappy start to the season continued with another accident.

Mercedes and Red Bull traded fastest laps at the top of the timesheets for most of the session, but Verstappen eliminated himself from the battle midway through when he crashed at Turn 5. The Red Bull driver, who is under pressure after mistakes at all three races this year, lost control of the rear of his car under braking before slamming sideways into the barriers.

Although a number of drivers ran wide or locked tyres during the session, Verstappen was the only one to make contact with the wall and paid the price by missing out on the second half of the session. The collision snapped the front wing of his Red Bull and when he tried to get the car going again it stalled and refused to restart.

Verstappen's soft tyre time from the start of the session was still good enough for sixth overall, but left him 1.3s off the battle at the front between Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo. Bottas set his time on the ultra-soft tyre -- the fastest and least durable compound on offer this weekend -- whereas Ricciardo's time was on the slower super-soft tyre. Just 0.035s separated the two drivers, with Lewis Hamilton a distant fourth, 0.9s off

The Force Indias, which have been competitive every year at this circuit, were third and fifth using the super-soft tyre, with Sergio Perez third fastest and 0.125s clear of Hamilton. Fernando Alonso was seventh fastest in the McLaren ahead of Sergey Sirotkin and Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso.

Sebastian Vettel was tenth fastest after spending a large part of the first half of the session in the garage. Both Ferraris were fitted with ultra-soft tyres for the entirety of the session but they appeared to struggle for pace, with Vettel 2.271s off Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen a further 0.348s adrift in 15th place.

Raikkonen was limited to just ten laps after his car was put on jacks in the garage to investigate an issue at the rear of the car and he and Vettel complained of a lack of rear grip early in the session. Ferrari undoubtedly has work to do to during the second practice session this afternoon in order to get the car in a more competitive state ahead of qualifying.

Lance Stroll was 11th in the second Williams ahead of Brendon Hartley and the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg. Romain Grosjean was 14th after a series of lock-ups on his quick laps while Raikkonen was 15th ahead of the two Saubers of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson.

Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne will both look to improve in the second session after setting times well off their teammates, while a huge flatspot on his second set of tyres saw Carlos Sainz unable to continue and finish the session in last place overall.

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14/12/2018
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