BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull set the pace in the second practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Friday as the Australian driver chases his second win in a row.
Ricciardo, the winner in Baku last year, is coming off victory two weeks ago in China. He has not won more than one race in a season since 2014, and is publicly considering whether to move to Mercedes or Ferrari for next season in search of a car capable of winning the championship.
“It’s all we can ask for today. I’m pretty happy with how the car felt,” Ricciardo said. “Even if we can’t maybe qualify on the front row tomorrow, I think the race car will be strong.”
Kimi Raikkonen was second-fastest for Ferrari, 0.069 seconds off Ricciardo’s time. His Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader, could manage only 11th after spinning.
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“I think I struggled probably a little bit more than the others, but I’m not too worried,” Vettel said. “We can improve for tomorrow.”
Max Verstappen has been best known for collisions this season, and the Red Bull driver crashed again in the first practice but recovered to post the third-fastest time in the second session. However, he limped back to the pits at the end of the day with apparent engine issues.
The Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas — fastest in the first session — and defending champion Lewis Hamilton ranked fourth and fifth, respectively, in the second practice. They fought with Ferrari to get enough heat into their tires on the slippery and dusty Baku street circuit. Baku’s long straight means teams run a low-downforce setup which can make it hard to negotiate the tight street corners on the rest of the lap.
“Overall, we weren’t quick enough today,” Hamilton said. “Both Red Bull and Ferrari seem to be ahead of us at the moment. So we’ve got some work to do. I’m going to be knocking on the doors of all the engineers overnight, so that we can hopefully make the right changes.”
Fernando Alonso managed a rare sixth place for McLaren.
While numerous cars strayed into the runoff areas on the low-grip track, Verstappen’s was the only crash of the day. At Sauber, Marcus Ericsson’s second session was cut short by a gearbox problem.
In the first session, Bottas was narrowly ahead of Ricciardo, and Force India’s Sergio Perez beat Hamilton into third.
Dry conditions are expected for Saturday’s qualifying and Sunday’s race, though some drivers expect gusts of winds to cause trouble.