After the first session saw no representative running due to George Russell’s accident and subsequent track checks, Ferrari dominated the second Friday practice.
Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari 1-2 by three tenths over Sebastian Vettel, and was 0.669s quicker than Hamilton’s Mercedes.
Championship leader Hamilton admitted it had been “a bit of an odd day” on track, but conceded that the early signs from Ferrari were ominous.
“FP2 went really well, I was feeling good out there and I was more comfortable in the car than I was last year,” said Hamilton, who ended up winning the 2018 Azerbaijan race after teammate Valtteri Bottas’ late puncture.
“However, the Ferraris are clearly very quick and it looks like they’re quite a bit ahead of us, so we’ll need to investigate to see where we are losing time compared to them.
“It’s unlikely that we will find seven tenths over night, but we’ll do everything we can to push the car in the right direction.”
Bottas ended the day 1.1s off the pace and almost half a second down on his teammate, conceding afterwards that he was “not really pleased with the laps I did”.
Ferrari brought its first major updates to the SF90 for the Baku race, but Friday pace-setter Leclerc said it was “quite difficult to judge the new aero package” based on the limited running.
The Monegasque stressed that he expects a stronger challenge from Mercedes going forward in Baku based on the Silver Arrows’ race simulations on Friday.
“I think they were quite strong in the race run, so I expect them to be there for the qualy run tomorrow when they put everything together,” Leclerc said.
“I think I’m quite confident with the car, quite confident with the track, so overall it’s a good day, but again, looking at their pace in the race run, I expect quite a lot more to come from them tomorrow in qualifying so it’s not going to be easy.”
Hamilton and tech chief James Allison backed up Leclerc’s assessment of the W10’s performance in practice.
“Our long run pace looked a little bit stronger than our short run pace, so we’ll need to try and find out why,” said Hamilton.
“We’re not where we need to be lap for the single-lap work, but looked reasonably paced for the longer runs,” echoed Allison.
“So we have a bit of work to do overnight to tidy up the handling to give the drivers the confidence to really smash it around the lap and then hopefully we’ll have a good weekend.”
Additional reporting by Christian Nimmervoll