Baku threw up it’s usual strange events as Friday at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was pretty much a half day, given that the scheduled three hours of track time was reduced to slightly less than 90 minutes.
Free Practice 1: The first free practice session for the Azerbaijan GP lasted just 13 minutes, before being red flagged when a manhole cover on a straight in the first sector of the track came loose. Charles Leclerc drove his SF90 over the offending cover just before George Russell’s Williams was damaged when the cover lifted off. The session was immediately stopped so that the track could be cleaned up, but shortly afterwards it was decided that the session would not be re-started as all the other manhole covers on the track had to be checked before the track could be declared fit for purpose again.
In the first session, up to that point, the only two cars to have set a time were the two Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow SF90s. Charles Leclerc did five laps with a best time of 1’47”497, while Sebastian Vettel did four, the quickest in 1’49”598. Both drivers used the Medium tyre.
Free Practice 2: In the second session, there were two red flag interruptions, which reduced the scheduled time by 18 minutes. Therefore one cannot read too much into the lap times, as teams had to adjust their programmes to fit the available time. The second free practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix saw the Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow SF90s end up at the top of the time sheet.
All the teams tried to make the most of the afternoon session. Charles and Sebastian worked on an evaluation of some aero updates fitted to the SF90. Then they focussed on set-up for the race and qualifying, using the Medium and Soft compounds, setting their fastest laps on the latter, doing 28 laps each. Charles did the fastest lap of the day in 1’42”872 and Sebastian was second in 1’43”196.
Programme. Tomorrow’s third and final practice session to prepare for the race and qualifying takes place at 14 local time. Qualifying is at 17 (15 CET). The race on Sunday gets underway at 16.10 (14.10 CET).
Charles Leclerc #16
“After a day like today, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of where we all stand, especially in terms of long run pace, when I think traffic was a factor. In qualifying trim, I felt comfortable, but also in this aspect, we will have to wait until tomorrow to get a clearer picture. However, we still have quite a bit of work to do to get the maximum out of the SF90 and that’s what we will concentrate on in the final free practice session. If we manage that, then we can be competitive.”
Sebastian Vettel #5
“It was a rather complicated Friday, because we weren’t able to do much running and the track was slippery and dusty. But it was fun all the same. So it took a while to get into a rhythm but overall I feel comfortable with the car. Maybe tomorrow we should be able to get a better idea of where we stand, because while I felt good in the car, there’s definitely still room for improvement. Tomorrow, we will continue working as it’s vital to get into a rhythm and have a good feel for the car and be totally confident about the track. I think qualifying will be very close, because I imagine our rivals will be very fast tomorrow.”