Azerbaijan GP: Max Verstappen crashes as Valtteri Bottas fastest

Valtteri Bottas
Second practice is live on 5 live sports extra and the BBC Sport website

Max Verstappen's difficult start to the season continued with a crash in first practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver, who has had major incidents in all three races, lost control at Turn Three early in the session and smashed into the barriers.

Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was fastest at the time and ended up second behind Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn was 0.035 seconds quicker with world champion Lewis Hamilton fourth behind Force India's Sergio Perez.

The Mercedes drivers were on the fastest ultra-soft tyre, while Ricciardo and Perez were running the theoretically slower super-soft.

Ferrari's championship leader Sebastian Vettel was only 10th fastest on the ultra-soft, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen 13th. As the German was 2.3secs off the pace, the red cars' speed cannot be representative.

Verstappen arrived in Baku talking of learning from his mistakes and planning to drive "faster but maybe a little more in control".

But his words came back to haunt him when he lost control on entry to Turn Three, corrected, only for the car to spin back the other way and end up in the barriers facing the wrong way.

In the opening race in Australia, he over-drove chasing the fast-starting Haas of Kevin Magnussen, ran wide, damaged his car and then spun, finishing sixth.

In Bahrain, he crashed in qualifying, then collided with Hamilton early in the race and was forced into retirement.

In China, in a great position to win after a decision by Red Bull to change tyres during a safety-car period, he first let Ricciardo into a winning position by running wide in an over-ambitious passing attempt on Hamilton and then crashed into Vettel a few laps later.

Crashing early in his first on-track session at the next race will only increase the pressure on the 20-year-old, who ended the first 90 minutes of running in sixth place, behind the impressive Force India of Esteban Ocon.

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McLaren's Fernando Alonso was seventh quickest, 2.2secs off the pace and 26km/h slower on the straight than Ricciardo, who uses the same Renault engine.

Behind the Spaniard, there was encouraging news for Williams.

The once-dominant team have had a poor start to the season but Russian Sergey Sirotkin was eighth quickest and team-mate Lance Stroll 11th, suggesting they may be beginning to get a handle on their problems.

Other than Verstappen, there were no other crashes, but a series of drivers struggled on the low-grip surface.

Both Hamilton and Alonso ran wide at Turn Two and Renault drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz locked up, damaged their front tyres and had to end their session early, ending up 12th and 20th.

Haas driver Romain Grosjean had consecutive incidents at Turn 15 and Turn One, running wide without damage. Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley, 11th quickest, took to the escape road twice in Turn Eight, once at the beginning of the session and once close to the end, both times without damaging the car.

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