Max Verstappen may have topped both Azerbaijan GP practice sessions on Friday, but Red Bull’s race simulations weren't as convincing as its one-lap pace.
On an 11 lap stint on Pirelli’s supersoft compound, Verstappen recorded an average lap time of 1m46.745, which was a tenth shy of what Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel (1m46.621) managed on the same compound.
Although the Renault engine on the back of the RB13 is still not on par with its Ferrari or Mercedes counterparts, Red Bull has been able to make up for the deficit through their low-downforce aero package.
The Austrian team has successfully run similar kits at Spa and Monza during previous years with reasonable success. As a result, it appears much closer to Ferrari and Mercedes at this track than perhaps at any other point this season.
Speaking of Mercedes, the reigning champions struggled with getting temperature into the front tyres, with Lewis Hamilton trailing home 10th in FP2 and not completing a representative race simulation.
However, Valtteri Bottas showed the potential of the W08 Hybrid by setting an average time of 1m46.938s on a set of soft tyre.
This was comparable with Raikkonen’s average of 1m46.953s on the same tyre compound. However, Mercedes doesn’t have any long-run data on supersoft tyres, which is likely to be the preferred choice of rubber come race day.
Supersoft lap averages
Vettel 1m46.621s (12 lap stint, 7 laps counted)
Verstappen 1m46.745s (11 lap stint, 6 counted)
Ricciardo 1m46.917s (10 lap stint, 6 laps counted)
Soft lap averages
Bottas 1m46.938s (11 lap stint 6 counted)
Raikkonen 1m46.953s (13 lap stint, 8 laps counted)
by Rachit Thukral