Max Verstappen has remained on top of the practice timesheets as Friday’s track action drew to a close at the Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix, despite crashing out at the end of an incident-filled session.

Drivers struggled for grip in the late afternoon conditions around the six-kilometre street circuit, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer also joining Verstappen by biffing the barriers.

Verstappen set the early pace on his Soft compound tyre runs before bolting on Super Softs to continue his FP1 session-topping form by posting a 1:43.362, just one-tenth of a second clear of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas.

With just under a minute left on the clock, Verstappen then lost control of his car through Turn 1 and slid into the barriers. The crash caused significant damage to his RB13 and forced the remaining runners to abandon their hopes of moving up the timing screens.

A number of runners were unable to post representative lap times thanks to various incidents around the track during the session, as evidenced by Bottas’ teammate Lewis Hamilton languishing in tenth place on the timesheets.

Palmer’s crash was by far the biggest incident of the session. With Sergio Pérez having hit the wall at Turn 8 in FP1, the Englishman did likewise at the tricky corner and brought out the red flags.

Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who was second-fastest in the opening session, lapped just 0.011 seconds off Bottas’ pace to claim third-fastest ahead.

The Ferraris of championship leader Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen finished fourth and fifth-fastest respectively. Both complained about a lack of tyre temperature and demonstrated this with a number of off-track moments in the session, fortunately without hitting the wall.

A surprise sixth-fastest was Williams’ Lance Stroll, who finished comfortably clear of teammate Felipe Massa. The Canadian teenager benefited, however, from posting his fastest lap time just before the red flags were unfurled for Palmer’s accident.

His Force India repaired after his FP1 crash, Sergio Pérez claimed seventh ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat – the Russian clipped the wall at Turn 15.

Pérez’s teammate Esteban Ocon was ninth-fastest ahead of a low-key Hamilton, who survived a near-miss with Räikkönen when the Finn dived up the inside of the Briton at Turn 1.

McLaren Honda’s woes continued, with Fernando Alonso forced to bring his MCL32’s running to another early end when his car suffered an apparent power unit failure with around half an hour of the session to run. The team later clarified that he experienced a gearbox issue.

Nonetheless, both he and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne look set to start at the back of the grid thanks to grid penalties for taking on several power unit elements ahead of this weekend’s race.

The lower midfield was occupied by Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and the Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Palmer.

Vandoorne was seventeenth-fastest and complained of severe front-brake locking, although the Belgian had a comfortable margin to the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

Slowest of all was an increasingly frustrated Romain Grosjean, who once again found his Haas-Ferrari wanting when it came to its stability under braking. The Frenchman’s running was limited to barely more than 20 laps while the team investigated the issue.

Saturday’s final practice session in Baku will begin at 14:00 local time (GMT +4).

Driver Team / Entry Time Tyre Laps
1. Max Verstappen nl Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:43.362 Pirelli Super Soft 36
2. Valtteri Bottas fi Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:43.462 Pirelli Super Soft 32
3. Daniel Ricciardo au Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB13 1:43.473 Pirelli Super Soft 34
4. Kimi Räikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:43.489 Pirelli Super Soft 35
5. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF70H 1:43.615 Pirelli Super Soft 35
6. Lance Stroll ca Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:44.113 Pirelli Super Soft 27
7. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:44.306 Pirelli Soft 34
8. Daniil Kvyat ru Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:44.321 Pirelli Super Soft 27
9. Esteban Ocon fr Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM10 1:44.484 Pirelli Super Soft 37
10. Lewis Hamilton uk Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W08 1:44.525 Pirelli Soft 23
11. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW40 1:44.609 Pirelli Super Soft 33
12. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:45.515 Pirelli Super Soft 15
13. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR12 1:45.733 Pirelli Super Soft 34
14. Kevin Magnussen dk Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:45.831 Pirelli Super Soft 33
15. Nico Hulkenberg de Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:46.003 Pirelli Soft 29
16. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS17 1:46.061 Pirelli Super Soft 17
17. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren-Honda MCL32 1:46.174 Pirelli Super Soft 28
18. Pascal Wehrlein de Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:47.150 Pirelli Super Soft 25
19. Marcus Ericsson se Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C36 1:47.347 Pirelli Super Soft 25
20. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-17 1:47.722 Pirelli Soft 22

Image via Red Bull Racing

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.