Max Verstappen crashes out of third practice ahead of qualifying for Azerbaijan GP

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Championship leader Max Verstappen has suffered an early setback after crashing out of third practice, the final session ahead of qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Red Bull, who lead the standings, had both driver’s top Friday’s timing sessions – with Verstappen fastest in the first session and Sergio Perez quickest in the second.

However, with 35 minutes left on the clock, Verstappen hit the wall at turn 15 bringing out the red flag on Saturday ahead of qualifying in Baku. 

The championship leaders seemed to be having a good weekend ahead of the crash, as title rivals Mercedes have struggled all weekend for pace.

Lewis Hamilton had to settle for P7 and P11 across the two sessions, with teammate Valtteri Bottas languishing down in 10th and 16th.

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Verstappen trudged back to the pits during the red flag period, with his car being lifted off the circuit with the Dutchman’s session over – with damage to the front left of the car.

It’s unknown how the damage will impact Red Bull in qualifying. 

The 23-year-old was on course to outpace Mercedes across all three sessions, admitting he had concerns Mercedes would come back stronger this weekend in Baku.

Now leading the standings thanks to victory in Monte Carlo, the Dutchman was wary of getting carried away.

“If it’s there at the end of the season, then that would be great,” stated Verstappen.

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“Still a long way to go, of course, it was great to bounce back after the last two races, of course the gap got bigger.

“But we still have to work hard, because we know that Mercedes on normal tracks are still the ones to beat.

“But good smooth weekend overall, and this is a great boost for the whole team moving forward.”

And when asked if the Monaco victory would give Verstappen confidence next time out, he replied: “It has nothing to do with confidence to be honest to be quick in Baku.

“If you just feel good in the car, and the car is doing what you want, I’ve always been quick around Monaco as well! Just shunted a few too many times.

“Baku again is just a completely different street circuit, where you run a lot less downforce because of that long straight, and the grip levels feel quite low there.

“So you can’t really compare it with each other, but normally we should be quite competitive but we’ll see.”

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