Leclerc takes top spot from Perez in Baku GP practice 2

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Leclerc takes top spot from Perez in Baku GP practice 2

Formula 1

Leclerc takes top spot from Perez in Baku GP practice 2

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Charles Leclerc took top spot in second practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Sergio Perez. The Monegasque trailed the Mexican in the first hour but snatched top spot in the late afternoon with a 0.248s margin.

Leclerc’s Ferrari was running with a much skinnier wing compared to FP1, and it showed in the sector times. Whereas earlier on Friday he was dominated in the first sector, by the end of the day he was quickest of all in that split — and without sacrificing performance in the slow and twisty middle sector, where his advantage was at its largest. In fact he was quicker than Perez’s Red Bull through all three splits by the end of the afternoon as well as at the speed trap.

But the day wasn’t flawless for Leclerc, who in the final five minutes complained this his engine was losing power, though the team radioed back that it was nothing to be worried about.

Max Verstappen held third, but he was 0.356s off the pace after having his quickest lap interrupted by a Perez spin ahead of him on the track that triggered yellow flags.

His session had been compromised from the start, however. The Dutchman’s flapping rear wing and DRS flag caught the eye of rival teams during FP1, and Red Bull Racing substituted it for a higher-downforce spec for the second session, leaving him down on pace in the speed trap.

Verstappen’s new wing flexed less, but also cost him straight-line speed. Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images

Fernando Alonso again found great speed in Baku, the Alpine driver getting inside a second of Leclerc for fourth place in the order. He was the fastest in the field in a straight line bar teammate Esteban Ocon, who was ninth and 3mph quicker at the speed trap, clocking in at 212.5mph.

Carlos Sainz struggled to get in a clean lap on his low-fuel runs in the other Ferrari, leaving him fifth.

AlphaTauri enjoyed a productive hour, with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda finishing sixth and eighth at 1s and 1.3s off the pace respectively.

The teammates sandwiched George Russell into seventh, whose best lap was a a disappointing 1.3s off the pace and still afflicted by vibrations down the long straight — a disheartening sign for Mercedes after its resurgence in Spain.

Ocon slotted into ninth for Alpine, with Lando Norris completing the top 10 for McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel was 11th ahead of Lewis Hamilton — who struggled to comprehend his 1.65s margin to the top — and Lance Stroll, who set an identical time to the Briton.

Daniel Ricciardo was 14th ahead of Alfa Romeo teammates Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.

Alex Albon’s afternoon ended with only 13 laps completed after he bizarrely clipped the Turn 17 apex barrier in a moment of inattentiveness, the run from Turn 16 to the first corner being a fairly straightforward flat-out blast.

Mick Schumacher was 19th for Haas, while Nicholas Latifi propped up the classification sheet in 20th.

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