The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is shaping up to be a three-way title fight, but the track causes problems for Verstappen.
Valtteri Bottas posted the quickest time in the first practice, 0.035 seconds faster than Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton who came in fourth, his highest placed of the day. While Daniel Ricciardo was the quickest in FP2, with Raikkonen jumping up to second, and Verstappen in third 0.116 behind his Red Bull team-mate.
Max Verstappen crashed at turn three in the first session after what looked like a nasty greeting with the wall. He stalled in first gear causing him to slide out of the corner. Luckily, Verstappen escaped with minor damage and was back racing for the rest of the session. However, after that crash he had a near miss just 11 laps in. He misjudged another corner, but fortunately for him he didn’t meet any hard surfaces.
Perhaps Verstappen should focus on getting some points behind him in the next few races and keep himself safe from race-changing mistakes, instead of losing control on corners and overtakes.
In Baku last year, he was the fastest in FP1 and is only one second behind after crashing in this session. He’s tipped as a future World Champion, but for the beginning of the 2018 season he’s had a series of disastrous manoeuvres causing him to compromise what could have been podium places, and in Bahrain his race entirely.
Every race seems like a fresh start to race clean for Verstappen, and show his doubters that he is capable of winning, and fulfilling that idea of being a future World Champion. But his crash today didn’t look like a welcome birthday present for Red Bull President Helmut Marko, and as Christian Horner rolls his eyes after seeing the action, it looks like Red Bull are getting fed up of Verstappen’s risky driving so far this season.
The Baku circuit is a street race and has a series of tricky 90-degree corners and narrow bends, but it also has a two-kilometre kinking straight, which is the longest flat out section of the season. It is one of the few tracks where full electrical deployment cannot be used, and along with being a hot track at 41 degrees in practice and the “city of winds”, it will prove to be a tough and interesting race for drivers on Sunday.