If Friday’s two practice sessions are any indicator, this weekend’s Azerbaijan Formula 1 Grand Prix looks set to be a closely-fought affair between the ‘big three’ teams.

Chinese Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo emerged quickest – but only just – in his Red Bull Racing, narrowly outpacing Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen by just 0.069 seconds in the afternoon’s second practice hit-out around the Baku City Circuit.

After finishing second-fastest to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas by barely three-hundredths of a second in Friday’s earlier session, Ricciardo moved to the top of the timesheets barely 15 minutes after the pit exit was opened. He then improved to a 1:43.512, still on Supersoft tyres.

The field then switched to runs on the grippier Ultrasoft tyres to conduct qualifying-style runs. Bottas came just 0.058 seconds short of Ricciardo’s effort as he struggled to keep his rear tyre temperatures under control.

Ricciardo then went out, posting three flying laps – each separated by a cool-down lap to give some life back to his tyres – posting times of 1:43.017, 1:42.816 and finally a 1:42.795.

Räikkönen came closest in his Ferrari on his Ultrasoft tyre run, getting within seven-hundredths of the Australian’s benchmark effort to secure second place on the timesheets.

The Finn denied Red Bull Racing a 1-2 result in the session, as Max Verstappen finished third-quickest in the second RB14 with a time 0.116 seconds slower than Ricciardo’s.

Having crashed out of the first practice session, the Dutch youngster still continued to push and survived a light scrape of the wall during the session as well as a heavy lock-up at Turn 3 that sent him down the escape road.

Worryingly, however, he had to cruise back to the pits late in the session with instructions to reduce his engine’s revs.

FP1 pacesetter Bottas was shuffled down to fourth-fastest, seven-tenths off the ultimate pace and narrowly ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The defending World Champion looked particularly quick through the first sector of the Baku City Circuit’s layout, but could not string a truly representative lap together. This worryingly suggests that Mercedes is still not on top of temperature management of the tyres with its F1W09.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W09 - 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Mercedes’ tyre temperature struggles seem to continue, with both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton (pictured) off the pace.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso finished the session sixth-fastest and the last of those able to get within one second of Ricciardo’s benchmark time. The two-time World Champion finished ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon.

Ocon led a tight midfield, with the gap between himself and compatriot Pierre Gasly (15th-fastest) was less than one second.

The two Renaults of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Nico Hülkenberg finished inside the top ten, split by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. Hülkenberg’s session was disrupted while his mechanics fitted a new underbody skid-block plank to his car and later complained of an apparent braking issue which his engineers were unable to detect in the car’s telemetry or sensors.

Another driver to struggle with brakes was championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who finished eleventh-fastest after a number of trips up the scape road in his Ferrari. He was, however, among the quickest drivers in the second and third sector split times.

Sergio Pérez was another driver to explore the Turn 3 escape road in his very stiffly sprung Force India, ultimately finishing twelfth-fastest ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Williams’ Lance Stroll.

Sauber rookie Charles Leclerc had an off-track moment at Turn 1 en route to 16th-fastest ahead of fellow rookie Sergey Sirotkin in the Williams. The pair was marginally quicker than Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Leclerc’s teammate Marcus Ericsson saw his FP2 session restricted to just nine laps after his car suffered an apparent gearbox problem.

Saturday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix action sees the third and final practice session at 14:00-15:00 local time, followed by qualifying at 17:00-18:00 (GMT +4).

Driver Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Daniel Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:42.795 35
2. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:42.864 + 0.069 33
3. Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14 1:42.911 + 0.116 27
4. Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:43.570 + 0.775 25
5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09 1:43.603 + 0.808 31
6. Fernando Alonso McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:43.700 + 0.905 34
7. Esteban Ocon Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:43.814 + 1.019 30
8. Carlos Sainz Jr Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:43.834 + 1.039 36
9. Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:43.977 + 1.182 29
10. Nico Hülkenberg Renault Sport F1 Team RS18 1:44.091 + 1.296 33
11. Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari SF71H 1:44.127 + 1.332 38
12. Sergio Pérez Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11 1:44.142 + 1.347 31
13. Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18 1:44.425 + 1.630 27
14. Lance Stroll Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:44.459 + 1.664 31
15. Pierre Gasly Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:44.712 + 1.917 39
16. Charles Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:44.940 + 2.145 30
17. Sergey Sirotkin Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41 1:45.007 + 2.212 33
18. Brendon Hartley Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13 1:45.051 + 2.256 36
19. Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33 1:45.288 + 2.493 29
20. Marcus Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37 1:46.042 + 3.24 9

Image via Aston Martin Red Bull Racing and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team

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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.