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Verstappen completes Azerbaijan GP practice double before crash

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in action during practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku on June 23, 2017 © AFP / Alexander NEMENOV

BAKU, Azerbaijan, Jun 23Max Verstappen completed an impressive double on Friday by topping the times in second free practice for this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, having done the same for Red Bull in the opening morning session, before crashing in the final minute.

The 19-year-old Dutchman clocked a best lap in one minute and 43.362 seconds to outpace Finn Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes by 0.100, but he ended the session ignominiously by hitting the wall at Turn One.

On a day of heat and many incidents, including a red-flagged halt to the action in both sessions, Verstappen’s Red Bull Australian team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest in second practice ahead of Finn Kimi Raikkonen and his Ferrari team-mate championship leading five-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.

Canadian Lance Stroll, who scored his first F1 points for Williams at his home event earlier in June, was sixth ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez, who crashed in the morning session, Russian Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso, Frenchman Esteban Ocon in the second Force India and, unexpectedly, three-time champion Briton Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

The session was an unhappy one for the Englishman as he struggled to ‘hook up’ his car to the required set-up for the circuit, but at least he kept away from the walls.

“I think this is a circuit where you need to build up a rhythm, but we did not let Lewis out at the right times and he did not have the chance to do that,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff of Hamilton, who has struggled to find the sweet spot in his car earlier this year on other street circuits, including Sochi and Monaco.

That was not a story shared by compatriot Jolyon Palmer whose miserable form continued when he crashed his Renault in the opening minutes, causing a red-flagged stoppage.

Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso’s ill luck also continued in the afternoon when after driving impressively he was forced into early retirement with an engine failure in his McLaren Honda car.