Daniel Ricciardo continued his impressive form by soaring to the top of the time sheets in second practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ricciardo delivered an overtaking masterclass in China a fortnight ago to take the chequered flag, and the Red Bull driver appears in good shape this weekend.
Defending champion Lewis Hamilton's slow start to the season, however, showed little signs of easing after his best lap was good enough for only fifth in the order.
Hamilton will head into Sunday's race on the streets of Azerbaijan's capital city Baku without a victory from the opening three rubbers, and he was off the pace once more here on Friday.
The 33-year-old Englishman finished a worrying eight-tenths of a second adrift of Ricciardo, and he was again slower than his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was one spot ahead.
Hamilton said: "Do I feel the need for the win? I am enjoying the battle and the whole experience, and that is what motorsport is all about.
"Finishing first is obviously a great feeling, but it always feels better when you have come from further back.
"When it feels like you have had a harder slog to get that victory, the win always feels better so when it does arrive, it is going to be great."
Sebastian Vettel, who leads Hamilton in the championship by nine points, had to settle for only 11th with the German mysteriously way down the order in both sessions.
Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was second, seven hundredths of a second adrift of Ricciardo, with Max Verstappen third.
Verstappen missed the majority of the opening session at the Baku City Circuit after he lost control of his Red Bull and crashed into the barriers.
The 20-year-old Dutchman, who arrived here under pressure following a series of high-profile collisions, vowed to recover from his error-prone campaign by driving faster than ever.
But he thudded into the barriers at turn six in the day's opening running after he came unstuck under braking at a circuit where virtually every mistake is punished.
Verstappen slammed into the wall, sustaining damage to the front, rear and left side of his Red Bull, and, to add insult to injury, the logistics of this street track meant he had to watch the remainder of the 90-minute session perched on a roadside kerb.
Speedy work from his Red Bull crew ensured Verstappen would be back on track later in the day, but there was a further nervy moment for the youngster after he went too deep on his brakes at turn three.
Verstappen took to the escape path before reversing his way out of trouble.
Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso finished sixth in the order, within one second of Ricciardo, while Force India's Esteban Ocon was seventh and Renault's Carlos Sainz eighth.
- Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1min 44.242secs
- Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:44.277
- Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:45.075
4 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:45.200, 5 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:45.237, 6 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:45.559, 7 Fernando Alonso (Spa) McLaren 1:46.465, 8 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:46.480, 9 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:46.492, 10 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:46.513, 11 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:46.590, 12 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:46.747, 13 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:46.749, 14 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:46.856, 15 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:46.861, 16 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari 1:46.875, 17 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:47.073, 18 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:47.434, 19 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:47.967, 20 Carlos Sainz (Spa) Renault 1:48.741