Ricciardo expects close race-day battle after strong practice showing


"Even if we can't maybe qualify on the front row tomorrow, I think the race vehicle will be strong".

"It is a tricky circuit, but it is the same for all of us", Vettel said.

Ricciardo was fastest on both the supersoft and the ultrasoft tire, and by the end of FP2 he had edged Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen by 0.069 seconds, notwithstanding the fact the Finn had the benefit of a tow down the long main straight on his fastest lap.

"We know we've built a good vehicle", Vettel said.

Finland's Valtteri Bottas, who was quickest in the opening session for Mercedes in a time of 1:44.242 that he said was a "bit messy", was fourth while teammate Hamilton could manage only fifth.

Ricciardo, the victor in Baku past year, is coming off victory two weeks ago in China.

In China, Hamilton dominated the practice sessions but was then out-qualified by Bottas for a second successive weekend and admitted after the race in Shanghai that he would need to do a bit of soul-searching to figure out what is wrong. With AP Photos.Daniel Ricciardo and Red Bull have set the pace in the second practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Verstappen was still quicker than Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, the championship leader he apologised to in China after they collided as the Red Bull was trying to overtake, who was 10th and 11th respectively.

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That remained the benchmark to the end of the session although Ricciardo, still on supersofts, improved to a time just 0.035s slower as Hamilton remained nearly a second adrift of his teammate.

The Woking team have worked hard to find solutions to their straight-line speed deficit, and Alonso out-paced Force India's Estaban Ocon and Renault's Carlos Sainz by just over a tenth. I am very happy to listen and also improve.

"I have every plan to be with the team for the future", Hamilton said.

Mercedes and Ferrari both have qualifying engine modes that Red Bull's Renault power unit simply can't match, but Ricciardo said he would play to his car's strength on Saturday afternoon.

"I certainly feel like I'm up there, I feel like I'm driving good and I felt comfortable out there today".

"I think I struggled probably a little bit more than the others, but I'm not too anxious", Vettel said.

Vettel said in Baku: "I can't help him put the signature on a piece of paper". I didn't really have any scares today. The balance was pretty normal, pretty good.

Raikkonen was also buoyed by his performance after struggling in the morning session when he had experimented with his set-up. "Obviously, for one lap that's what it was. and it's only Friday, so I think towards the end (of the session) was a lot better".