Bottas tops final Azerbaijan practice, Vettel suffers problems
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[June 24, 2017]
BAKU (Reuters) - Valtteri Bottas
topped the final Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice and team mate Lewis
Hamilton finished third as Mercedes heaped pressure on Ferrari's
Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel, who retired early
with hydraulic problems on Saturday.
Bottas, on soft tires, had been the early pacesetter, but a mistake
on Turn Two saw Hamilton usurp him as practice leader, before the
Finn bounced back and finished top of the classification with a time
of 1.42.742. Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second.
Four-times world champion Vettel ended the session in 12th, 1.602
seconds behind Bottas, after withdrawing early due to "a loss in the
hydraulic pressure circuit".
That set the stage for an unpredictable qualifying session.
It was a rare poor final practice performance and a potentially
significant blow to Ferrari's hopes of matching Mercedes' four Grand
Prix wins this season.
Hamilton, who is 12 points behind Vettel in the championship
standings, finished four tenths of a second behind Bottas.
Despite improving on Friday's underwhelming performance, the British
driver will be desperate to translate his improving form into
qualifying after enjoying a practice sweep in Baku last year only to
clip the barriers in qualifying and subsequently starting 10th on
[to top of second column]
Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas drives during the third practice session.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen recorded the fastest time
in both of Friday's sessions, but withdrew in sixth after a complete
power failure due to a suspected hydraulic issue, with the driver
having previously complained about engine problems.
Hamilton and Romain Grosjean of Haas were two of several drivers who
rode their luck on the challenging Baku circuit's narrow bends,
while Jolyon Palmer's misfortune continued as his car caught fire.
The British driver received a vote of confidence from Renault
Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul despite crashing during Friday's
session, but finished at the bottom of the standings here after
completing just four laps.
(Reporting by Ed Dove, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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