Hamilton fastest as Ricciardo crashes in Baku FP1

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the opening practice session for the Grand Prix of Europe as Daniel Ricciardo became the first victim of the new Baku City Circuit.

On a dusty track low on grip, Hamilton posted a 1:46.435 to lead team-mate Nico Rosberg by 0.377s. While Hamilton was immediately quicker on each of his comparable timed laps, he also made a number of errors later in the session to end his running early.

Using the supersoft tyre, Hamilton locked up and ran wide at Turn 3 before doing the same at the first corner on the following lap. For the third consecutive lap he made an error, again locking up at Turn 3 and grazing the wall under braking, forcing him to cut his session short due to the flat spots on his tyres.

While Hamilton pushed the limits, it was Ricciardo who was punished more heavily for running wide at Turn 15. Jenson Button has already bemoaned the lack of run-off area at that corner and Ricciardo only slightly missed the apex but a touch of oversteer on the exit saw the right rear corner wiped off his car against the barrier.

The session was red flagged for 15 minutes while the Red Bull was recovered, showing the difficulty of removing a car from the street circuit. Ricciardo ended the session outside the top ten, over three seconds off the pace.

While the Mercedes pair led the way, Valtteri Bottas was third quickest for Williams and just 0.6s adrift of Hamilton on the second-longest circuit on the calendar. Bottas was the only other driver within a second of the defending champion, with Fernando Alonso in fourth but 1.5s off Hamilton's time.

Sebastian Vettel was fifth for Ferrari but demonstrated how low the grip levels were early on by spinning on the exit of Turn 16 as he attempted to put the power down. Sergio Perez, Button and Felipe Massa rounded out the top eight but were all over two seconds off the pace on the soft tyre. Only the Toro Rossos joined the Mercedes pair in using the supersofts to set their best times.

Max Verstappen was languishing down in 16th place having only been able to complete seven laps during the 90-minute session as an oil leak confined him to the Red Bull garage on a difficult morning for the team.

A number of drivers made errors but managed to avoid harm thanks to the extensive run-off at Turn 1, with Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez and Marcus Ericsson all taking to the escape road.

Turn 15 also proved problematic, with Gutierrez and Daniil Kvyat having to decide to run straight on early. It took Gutierrez a while to return to the track but Kvyat pulled a neat donut to spin the car quickly and rejoin. Felipe Nasr had a worrying moment at the same corner as he locked up both front tyres and cut across the inside of the kerb but managed to avoid the wall.

Following Ricciardo's accident, Carlos Sainz immediately stopped at the same spot as he locked up and still tried to make the corner but had to come to a swift halt as he ran out of room, slightly damaging the front wing against the barrier.

Button and Kevin Magnussen both joined Hamilton in running off at Turn 3, with Button also smartly rejoining while it took the Renault longer to reverse back to the track.

While teams split strategies to attempt to understand the best set-up for the track, Bottas' time suggested low downforce is the way to go as he exceeded 350kph on the 2.1km run from Turn 16 to the first corner.

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01Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:46.43523
02Nico RosbergMercedes1:46.81232
03Valtteri BottasWilliams1:47.09634
04Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:47.98921
05Sebastian VettelFerrari1:48.62726
06Sergio PerezForce India1:48.92217
07Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:49.01921
08Felipe MassaWilliams1:49.12522
09Carlos SainzToro Rosso1:49.26716
10Nico HulkenbergForce India1:49.30127
11Romain GrosjeanHaas1:49.61120
12Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1:49.63516
13Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:49.77817
14Esteban GutierrezHaas1:50.16725
15Marcus EricssonSauber1:50.47318
16Max VerstappenRed Bull1:50.4857
17Daniil KvyatToro Rosso1:51.55119
18Jolyon PalmerRenault1:50.91025
19Kevin MagnussenRenault1:50.93927
20Pascal WehrleinManor1:51.21924
21Felipe NasrSauber1:51.77111
22Rio HaryantoManor1:51.92528