Norman Nato had the honour of topping the first competitive racing session to take place on the Baku City Circuit as the GP2 drivers found their limit around the tricky street venue.
As expected, the 6km track – with its blend of tight, slow sections and a long home straight – proved difficult to master over just 45mins with several drivers experiencing off-track moments and spins, even if there were no major incidents.
With Turn 16 – the final slow corner before the 2km run down to the first corner – and T1 proving particularly tricky due to the high coastal winds, there were no notable incidents through the already notorious T8-T12 complex.
Even so, several Virtual Safety Car periods would pepper the session, with Racing Engineering's Nato getting his fastest time in just before the final session-ending slow period to clear Norbert Matsushita's ART car, which had become stricken in the escape road.
Rookie Antonio Giovinazzi was second quickest, four tenths adrift, while Sergey Sirotkin – pole sitter last time out around the streets of Monaco – was third best despite a spin.
Pierre Gasly and Oliver Rowland completed the top five, ahead of Luca Ghiotto and Jordan King, the British driver involved in a startling moment early on when he went off at turn 15 to find a van stationed in the escape road.
Indeed, Turn 15 – identified by many F1 drivers as arguably the most challenging with an escape road that turns away from the bend – would catch many out, not least its narrowness, which prevented most from getting their cars turned back around without assistance.