Verstappen leads 1st practice in Baku; Perez crashes

Turn 8 is proving a little too narrow for some at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Raikkonen qualified third ahead of his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader.

"Disappointing. I was going for the pole, but the lap at the end just wasn't quite that flawless", Bottas admitted.

Bottas led qualifying and then set an even quicker time on his final lap - only for Hamilton to beat him by almost half a second. "It's not about being greedy, it's about having that right balance; it's basically like a see-saw and I had a flawless balance between aggressiveness and taking too much out".

"Maybe here or there not ideal but it was important to get the lap in and make the jump to fourth".

Vettel was not the only front runner to hit trouble with Red Bull's Max Verstappen, fastest in both practice sessions here on Friday, parking his Red Bull with 10 minutes remaining.

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With the Red Bull coming to rest on the inside of the track, the session was immediately red flagged to allow the vehicle to be cleared, setting up the frantic finale.

And unsurprisingly it was the former who Hamilton enjoyed a dinner date with in the Mercedes hospitality suite in the moments before qualifying.

"My first run in Q3 was actually really good, but I was a bit greedy into the last corner, locked up and cost myself time".

"In the end, I'm disappointed to lose the pole position, as that was definitively the target for me".

The Mercedes driver's pole position in Baku was the 66th of his career - only two short of Michael Schumacher's all-time record - but he said he was "even more excited than I have been for a long time". Kimi Raikkonen will start third after a hard session for Ferrari, with the Scuderia likely to be concerned by the margin of 1.1s to pole position. We were struggling yesterday but we made a lot of changes overnight.

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The 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) Baku circuit, which glides through the city's medieval walls and passes the Caspian sea, has F1's fastest top speed and is also one of the trickiest.

The tyres were struggling to find grip on the streets of Azerbaijan again, with numerous drivers, like Hamilton and Vettel locking brakes and losing time.

"The result is Ok but I'm not entirely happy", he said.

Behind, Force India duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took sixth and seventh, with the Williams' of Lance Stroll and Felipe Massa just behind. "Today was a good recovery and I thought I will not allow myself to do that again next qualifying but you learn from these things".

Alonso will start in an embarrassing 16th and Vandoorne next to last in 19th. "We need to get on top of that because it shouldn't happen".

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Jolyon Palmer was unable to take part after his Renault caught fire due to a fuel leak during the morning final practice, but approached the stewards for permission to take part in Sunday's race.

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