After a rather off-key pair of practice sessions on Friday, Sebastian Vettel emerged quickest in Saturday’s final practice outing before the all-important qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The four-time World Champion easily headed the field in the final one-hour hit-out, finishing over three-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. A late crash for Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, however, disrupted some drivers’ final flying lap attempts.
Kimi Räikkönen finished the session a solid third-fastest in the second Ferrari less than one-tenth of a second slower than Hamilton, while a last-gasp effort by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen denied a Mercedes and Ferrari sweep of the first four positions on the timesheets.
Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo – fastest in Friday’s second practice session – was one such victim of Sirotkin’s crash, and unable to string together a clean lap he finished well down the order.
Bottas was demoted to fifth place – just 0.050 seconds slower than Verstappen – but the Finn held a four-tenth of a second advantage over the midfield runners who were headed by Force India’s Sergio Pérez. Kevin Magnussen was seventh-fastest in the Haas Ferrari.
The two Williams Mercedes of Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin completed the top ten despite the latter’s crash, split by the second Force India of Esteban Ocon.
Gusty conditions made the Baku City Circuit’s slippery track surface even more of a handful. Brendon Hartley – who has been unable to match the pace of Toro Rosso teammate all weekend on a circuit he’s never visited – was the first to fall foul with a trip down the escape road after locking up on the tricky downhill approach to Turn 15.
Romain Grosjean was another driver to experience difficulties. The Frenchman also slid into the Turn 15 run-off and later had a spin at Turn 16 in his Haas Ferrari. Bottas (Turn 7) and Ocon (Turn 16) also had their own off-track moments during the session.
The biggest incident befell Sergey Sirotkin, who was enjoying one of his most competitive sessions of his short Formula 1 career. That all came to an end inside the final ten minutes of the session when he ripped the front-right corner off his Williams when he hit the wall at Turn 3. The damage was significant, leaving his Williams mechanics with plenty of work to do to ensure he can participate in this afternoon’s qualifying session.
|FORMULA 1 2018 AZERBAIJAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3 TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:43.091||17|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:43.452||+ 0.361||16|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:43.493||+ 0.402||17|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:43.519||+ 0.428||17|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:43.569||+ 0.478||20|
|6.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:43.936||+ 0.845||9|
|7.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:43.958||+ 0.867||11|
|8.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:44.123||+ 1.032||8|
|9.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:44.220||+ 1.129||11|
|10.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:44.534||+ 1.443||9|
|11.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:44.763||+ 1.672||12|
|12.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB14||1:44.861||+ 1.770||17|
|13.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:44.905||+ 1.814||16|
|14.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:45.218||+ 2.127||15|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:45.261||+ 2.170||12|
|16.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:45.432||+ 2.341||15|
|17.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:45.456||+ 2.365||11|
|18.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:45.505||+ 2.414||13|
|19.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:45.910||+ 2.819||17|
|20.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:46.186||+ 3.095||11|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari