Lewis Hamilton caught in slow lane practice during Azerbaijan Grand Prix practice as battle continues

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Lewis Hamilton catches himself in the slow lane during practice at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix… as Mercedes’ battle with the team remains more than a SECOND off Red Bull’s pace

  • Lewis Hamilton finished a shocking 11th place in practice in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix Prix
  • Mercedes was more than a second behind the pace of the two Red Bull drivers
  • Team boss Toto Wolff turned down TV slot to explain ongoing battle
  • Hamilton lost the championship lead to Max Verstappen in Monaco two weeks ago

Lewis Hamilton was left scratching his head after a shocking 11th in practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The seven-time world champion stomped dejectedly back to the Mercedes facility in the paddock without taking off his helmet and his boss Toto Wolff turned down a slot offered by the TV cameras to present his thoughts on the day.

And so began a long night through the data in Baku. The space at the microphone that Wolff refused was taken by Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who told his opponent to ‘shut up’ and ‘be careful what you wish for’ if their argument over ‘flexible wings’ continued bubbling away.

Lewis Hamilton endured horror training at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to finish 11th

Lewis Hamilton endured horror training at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix to finish 11th

The Briton is seeking a response after losing his championship lead two weeks ago

The Briton is seeking a response after losing his championship lead two weeks ago

The Briton is seeking a response after losing his championship lead two weeks ago

More of that afterthought later, but first Hamilton’s disappointment at being adrift by more than a second by the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen, fastest in the late morning session, and Sergio Perez, best dog in the afternoon .

The Briton had hoped to put his disappointment of two weeks ago in Monaco behind him. There he finished seventh and handed over the championship lead to Verstappen, the race winner, who has a four-point lead.

Hamilton’s chances of overcoming that gap seem slim after only finishing seventh in the first practice session before falling even further behind. This is certainly a bump in the road – but nothing more – for the team of the decade.

Hamilton could not offer a definitive cure, although he knew the symptoms well, saying: ‘We are just slow. It’s not easy to get out of the top 10 at pace, and I don’t really know why we are where we are. It seems we have gone backwards (since Monaco).

Sunday's race through the streets of Baku offers Red Bull another chance to shine

Sunday's race through the streets of Baku offers Red Bull another chance to shine

Sunday’s race through the streets of Baku offers Red Bull another chance to shine

Hamilton continued to struggle and was more than a second behind leader Sergio Perez

Hamilton continued to struggle and was more than a second behind leader Sergio Perez

Hamilton continued to struggle and was more than a second behind leader Sergio Perez

“I feel like I’m riding well. We’re a lot lower and everyone will be scratching their heads and trying to figure out how we can improve. The car is limited. There are areas where I should be faster, but there’s just no more grip.’

Hamilton’s woes, 1.049 seconds off the pace, were compounded by his teammate Valtteri Bottas finishing 16th out of 20 – 2.1 seconds adrift.

Ferrari looked strong with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in fourth and fifth.

As for the Horner-Wolff spit, Wolff has been critical of Red Bull’s flexible rear wing in recent weeks, believing it gives an illegal advantage. Horner insists not – says it passed FIA testing, no gray areas. However, a new load test will be introduced at the next race in France. After reviewing footage that Sky Sports F1 showed him, Horner countered that Mercedes itself appears to have flexible front and rear wings. touche.

Christian Horner refused to back down in his row with Toto Wolff over the flexible rear wing

Christian Horner refused to back down in his row with Toto Wolff over the flexible rear wing

Christian Horner refused to back down in his row with Toto Wolff over the flexible rear wing

He said, “If I were Toto, with the front wing he has on his car, I’d shut up.”

Commenting on the Mercedes rear wing, he added: “That might look a little worse than ours.”

Asked if he would protest against the Mercedes car, Horner was noncommittal and instead fired a shot across the bow.

“A lot of noise has been made about the rear wing and there have been many overhauls. If you grab at one end (of the car), you have to look at the other. You cannot look at one part individually.

‘Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. You open a can of worms. It’s impossible to make a completely rigid structure if you put tons of downforce on it.”

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