Azerbaijan GP

Baku pacesetter Verstappen ends FP2 with strange crash

Friday morning pacesetter Max Verstappen fastest from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, in the second practice session Verstappen’s flying lap ends in barriers, a strange crash. Almost as if the right rear broke and caused the spin.

Serious damage to the left-rear of that Red Bull, with the Dutch man dislodging the advertising boards against the TecPro barriers.

With 30 seconds remaining, Verstappen lost control of the rear of his car and slid into the barriers. He climbed out, took his helmet off and examined the car, anxious to see if there was any serious damage that needs repairing.

It seemed a fitting way to end the day, considering the Baku street circuit had been like an ice rink, with drivers sliding around as they constantly struggled for grip and balance.

Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest, with Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen fifth.

Lewis Hamilton, trailing Vettel by 12 points, preferred not to take risks ahead of the third practice and qualifying on Saturday. He finished the second session in 10th. But even driving very much within himself on a misbehaving track, he still almost crashed into Raikkonen.

The highly treacherous Turn 8 caused severe problems all day.

Force India driver Sergio Perez, who had crashed on Turn 8 in the opening session earlier Friday, almost ploughed straight back into the same barrier in the second. British driver Jolyon Palmer did just that, bringing the red flag out and briefly halting the session midway through.

Vettel, twice, and Williams driver Felipe Massa both had near misses on the same turn, while Ricciardo was instructed on team radio to take precautionary measures and go very wide heading into it Turn 8 to give himself room.

On another frustrating day for Fernando Alonso, the Spanish driver ended up helping mechanics wheel his car away after the engine blew with about 30 minutes left.

Alonso then stood and wistfully watched from behind the protective barriers, hands on hips, which was seemingly a better option than going back to a despondent team garage.

McLaren is the only team not to score a point this season and continues to be blighted by its unreliable Honda engine, prompting growing speculation that management is out of patience and considering a deal with Mercedes as its engine supplier.

Verstappen posted the fastest time in the first session ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel.

When it got underway, track temperatures were at a blistering 54 degrees C (129 degrees F). That dropped to a less demanding 44 degrees C (111 degrees F) when the second session started at 5 p.m. local time — the same time as Sunday’s race.

It promises to be a tricky one.

The 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) circuit glides through the city’s medieval walls and passes the Caspian sea. With F1’s fastest top speed, and its combination of long straights and hard-braking corners, it poses big problems for grip.

In the opening practice session, Bottas narrowly missed the barriers while Perez mangled both wheels on the right of his car on Turn 8.

Drivers were being severely tested in other sections, too.

Russian driver Daniil Kvyat sent debris onto the track after clipping the barriers with his Toro Rosso on Turn 14, while Sauber driver Marcus Ericcson was sliding everywhere near the end of the second session.

Meanwhile, French driver Romain Grosjean was slowest and ranted constantly about brake trouble on his Haas car. (Racing.ap.org)

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