AZERBAIJAN GP: FREE PRACTICE

An update from Free Practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as the Bulls take to the Baku City Circuit.

Baku's known as ‘The City of Winds’, with a cold northern wind (Khazri) and a warm southern wind (Gilavar) fighting for dominance. In F1’s first two visits, in June of 2016 and 2017, that wasn’t hugely significant (though the aerodynamicists may argue otherwise) but last year, with the race being held in April for the first time, and the city being in the eye of a gale, it suddenly made a lot more sense. It seems bizarre that a sport as high-tech as F1 can be derailed by a stiff breeze, but on that truly vast start-finish straight, the difference between braking down from 370kph for Turn One into the teeth of a 40kph gust, or a moment of calm, is the difference between making the corner or not.

However, when the cars took to the track for the first session of the weekend there was a very lowly wind of 4kph blowing across the track. Although the wind wasn't the issue during Free Practice One, as after only one lap by the Bulls the session was red flagged. The Williams of George Russell took a sizeable impact from a loose manhole cover, which damaged the floor of the car and caused it to shut itself down. 

It was then decided that the session wouldn't be restarted as the track required a thorough inspection and for oil to be cleared from the surface.

When the time came for Free Practice Two the track was ready for action. The Bulls put in some longer practice runs throughout the session, however they were slightly limited due to two red flags causing delays. Max finished the session in P4 with a time of 1:43.793 after his 24 laps. Pierre was P9 posting a 1:44.240 from his 24 laps.

After the session Pierre was summoned by the FIA and ordered to start to start Sunday’s race from the pit lane after missing the weigh bridge when attacking pit entry for a practice pit stop at the end of free practice.

In Saturday's practice session Max put in a solid performance to finish P3 with a best time of 1:42.852 after 16 laps. Pierre finished the session P20 having chosen to focus on race set-up completing 22 laps.

 
Following Friday's action Max said:
 

“The lack of running this morning didn’t really hurt us as it was the same for everyone and FP2 is always the most important session on a Friday. The track is very slippery and as you could see it was very easy to lock up or run wide, so it was important to complete as many laps as possible and get used to the track conditions. You have to drive to the limit of the car with the grip you have and you build up lap by lap, especially on a low grip street track like this, and you have to be ready to adapt. I’m satisfied with what we achieved today and now we will look into the data as there are always areas to improve, but it is mostly fine tuning. We don’t really have expectations for tomorrow yet and with only one practice session everyone can still improve a lot, but the initial balance seems fine and we completed a good number of laps on both tyre compounds.”

Wrapping up his Friday in Baku Pierre added:

“In the short runs, the laps were a bit messy but I think we have good potential if we manage to put everything together. With the high fuel, I’m feeling better and I’m pretty happy with the long runs. Of course we would have liked to run in FP1 but I think we managed to do everything we wanted to in FP2. We ran quite a lot of tests and we have a good direction for tomorrow. We know we have some performance so I’m pretty positive. With the braking, it was a bit tricky and I had to take the escape road a couple of times because I was finding the limit. The car is getting better all the time and I’m happy with the feeling I’m getting from it. Ferrari seemed quite a lot faster today but we’ll see what we can do in qualifying tomorrow and like I say, we have a good race car so this is positive.”