Frenchman quickest in Free Practice 
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 tyres. 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 chequered 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
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.
Daniël de Jong
MP Motorsport
2:01.794
15