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Bottas quickest in final practice in Baku

NEWS STORY
24/06/2017

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 26 degrees C, while the track temperature is 56 degrees.

Following a number of incidents yesterday, not least the crashes involving Perez and Palmer, the kerb at T8 has been modified.

Much of the blame for those incidents, certainly according to Lewis Hamilton lies with the tyres, the Briton insisting that the compounds here are too hard, indeed, he described them as hard and extra hard.

Certainly, the early signs, as far as Hamilton is concerned, is that Baku could be another Sochi or Monaco for the Briton.

Max Verstappen was quickest in both session, while teammate Ricciardo was second in FP2 and third in FP3, suggesting this could be a good weekend for the Austrian team.

Also looking good is Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, of course, not encountering the circuit-to-circuit tyre issues that Mercedes appears susceptible to.

As for those incidents, there were plenty of them, the yellow flags appearing over 100 times as every single driver had at least one off, some having several, and with the likelihood of more incidents in the next hour, not to mention Q1, we could be in for an interesting day and a mixed-up grid.

Indeed, despite being quickest in both sessions, Verstappen blotted his copybook by crashing sideways into the barriers himself in the final moments of FP2.

It wasn't all bad for Mercedes however, Valtteri Bottas splitting the Red Bulls in FP2.

The lights go green and Palmer leads the way, followed by Vandoorne, Wehrlein, Magnussen and Vettel. All on mediums thus far, which we won't be seeing much more of this weekend.

Indeed, much like FP1, the temperature variation between the opening and late sessions, including the race, makes the early sessions almost redundant.

Vettel reports leaves on the track, suggesting a possible future career with British Rail.

Palmer posts the first time of the day, a somewhat conservative 1:53.040. Moments later however, the Renault grinds to a halt at T2, flames appearing at the rear of his car. His session is over, a further blow to the troubled Briton.

Meanwehile, Sainz posts the first time of the day, the Spaniard crossing the line at 49.922. That said, the Toro Rosso driver is on supersofts while Palmer was on the mediums.

Perez posts 55.923 as the marshals continue to cover Palmer's Renault with extinguisher foam even as they manhandle it from the track.

As the yellow flags are waved at T2 drivers are told to maintain the temperatures in their front tyres.

A 47.722 sees Kvyat go quickest, to make it a Toro Rosso 1-2.

Verstappen splits the Toro Rosso duo with a 48.610, as the Mercedes duo venture out, Hamilton subsequently posting 52.501 and Bottas 52.164.

Bottas improves to 47.262 to go top as, after 17 minutes of running, we only have ten names on the timesheet.

Whereas Bottas and Verstappen were on softs, Kvyat and Sainz, both on supers, go 1-2 again as the Russian posts 45.730.

However, Bottas responds with a 44.522 as Vettel goes 8th with a 51.499.

Hamilton (softs) posts 44.796 to go second ahead of Perez who posts 44.856.

On his first flying lap, Raikkonen (supers) goes fourth with a 45.144.

Relay shows Ericsson run wide in T2 after carrying too much speed as he sought to stay ahead of Raikkonen and out-braked himself. The fool!

Bottas improves to 43.720 as the Force India duo of Perez and Ocon take second and third.

Raikkonen demotes the Force Indias with a 44.115.

As Vettel's car is worked on in the Ferrari garage, Hamilton goes quickest in S1, the Briton currently 8th overall.

Told he needs to find time in T7, Ricciardo subsequently gets up close and worryingly personal with the wall at T6.

Massa goes second, the Brazilian crossing the line at 43.844, just 0.124s down on Bottas. Hamilton improves to fifth with a 44.390.

At 'half-time', it's: Bottas, Massa, Raikkonen, Perez, Hamilton, Ocon, Kvyat, Sainz, Hulkenberg and Stroll.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Baku, here.

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