The winds that battered the Baku City Circuit yesterday may have abated - at least a little - but the Azerbaijani track wasn't any less tricky today, as drivers tackled the twenty corners making up the venue of this weekend's Grand Prix in today's first two hours of practice.
Many were caught out, resulting in two sessions with a high degree of disruption - Virtual Safety Cars, yellow flags, even a red flag. In the confusion, the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN team did a fine job across both sessions, keeping out of trouble and managing to bring both cars' programmes to a successful conclusion. The stopwatch also provided validation to the team's work, with Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi being in 11th and 12th respectively after the opening session and the Italian jumping to a credible P7 in the timesheets in the afternoon, his team-mate in P12.
Of course, it's still early in the weekend and much work remains to be done to be ready for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's showpiece. The Baku City Circuit is sure to throw a few surprises our way, with wind conditions expected to become more challenging tomorrow and the advantage given by having a tow on the 2.2km home straight sure to play a decisive role in qualifying.
It will take all of the team's ability to navigate through these challenges and bring home another good result: surely, though, the first day around this circuit in two years has proved to be a really positive start to our race weekend. Time to build on it.
Kimi Raikkonen: "It was a good way to start the weekend, the car felt ok from the morning session but of course there is still a lot that can be improved. In the end, there were a few interruptions with the yellow and red flags, which broke up the day a little, but it's the same for everyone and we have to deal with it. We will see what we can improve on the car tonight: hopefully we can have a strong day tomorrow."
Antonio Giovinazzi: "The car felt good from the start: FP1 wasn't too bad and we made a step forward in the second session. I am happy with what we saw in both the qualifying and the race simulations. It's only Friday but I'm satisfied to be seventh in the standings, hopefully we can carry on this form tomorrow. There are still a few little things to improve, of course, but we can be happy so far. Tomorrow we will need to put everything together, as always, and make sure we make the most of the tow as it will be critical. We will try our best and hopefully have a good result."
Check out our Friday gallery from Baku, here.