Nato leads the way at Baku

Norman Nato
Norman Nato

GP2 Series leader Norman Nato had the perfect start to his race weekend today as he topped the timesheet in the free practice session at the Baku city circuit in a 1:55.394 ahead of rookie Antonio Giovinazzi and Sergey Sirotkin.

The session opened under sunny but windy conditions as the drivers fed onto the dirty Azerbaijani track on Medium Pirelli tyros. Nato set the early pace in a 1:58.148 as the drivers got to grips with the twisty and technical new track. The RUSSIAN TIME pair were the first drivers to challenge the Racing Engineering man: Artem Markelov went top first, but Raffaele Marciello bettered his teammate’s time in a 1:57.464 to sit pretty at the top of the standings. The session was interrupted by a first Virtual Safety Car as an ambulance was moved out of the run off area at Turn 15.

When the action picked up again, PREMA’s Giovinazzi found some extra pace to dip under 1m57s to claim the top spot – +0.5s ahead of Nato who had then moved up to P2. The Italian ace went even faster shortly after that and lapped the track in a 1:55.719 as Sirotkin and Pierre Gasly also improved to move to P2 and P3 respectively.

In the final stages, Nato went quickest and edged Giovinazzi out of P1. Sirotkin found a clear lap to improve and moved up to third. The run off area at Turn 15 proved to be useful as Marciello, Philo Paz Armand, Gustav Malja and Nobuharu Matsushita all tested it out with the latter stopping and retiring with five minutes left on the clock. The VSC was redeployed until the checkered flag as the marshals retrieved the ART car.

At the end of the session, Nato remained top ahead of Giovinazzi, Sirotkin, Gasly, Rowland, Luca Ghiotto, Jordan King, Arthur Pic, Marciello and Sergio Canamasas. With the drivers now more familiar with this new layout, today’s qualifying session promises to be thrilling.

Baku, Azerbaijan – Free Practice

Pos

Driver

Team

Laptime

Laps

1.

Norman Nato

Racing Engineering

1:55.394

16

2.

Antonio Giovinazzi

PREMA Racing

1:55.719

15

3.

Sergey Sirotkin

ART Grand Prix

1:56.093

16

4.

Pierre Gasly

PREMA Racing

1:56.494

17

5.

Oliver Rowland

MP Motorsport

1:56.871

17

6.

Luca Ghiotto

Trident

1:57.059

16

7.

Jordan King

Racing Engineering

1:57.091

15

8.

Arthur Pic

Rapax

1:57.438

16

9.

Raffaele Marciello

RUSSIAN TIME

1:57.464

8

10.

Sergio Canamasas

Carlin

1:57.538

14

11.

Marvin Kirchhöfer

Carlin

1:57.585

14

12.

Artem Markelov

RUSSIAN TIME

1:57.587

15

13.

Mitch Evans

Pertamina Campos Racing

1:57.799

17

14.

Nicholas Latifi

DAMS

1:58.397

17

15.

Nobuharu Matsushita

ART Grand Prix

1:58.432

13

16.

Gustav Malja

Rapax

1:58.808

16

17.

Alex Lynn

DAMS

1:59.723

16

18.

Philo Paz Armand

Trident

1:59.757

11

19

Jimmy Eriksson

Arden International

2:00.493

17

20.

Nabil Jeffri

Arden International

2:00.561

17

21.

Sean Gelael

Pertamina Campos Racing

2:00.769

14

22.

Daniel de Jong

MP Motorsport

2:01.794

15

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