Perez leads Leclerc in first Baku GP practice

Carl Bingham/Motorsport Images

Perez leads Leclerc in first Baku GP practice

Formula 1

Perez leads Leclerc in first Baku GP practice

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Sergio Perez topped a blustery first practice hour at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ahead of Charles Leclerc. Perez, who won in Baku last season, set a best lap of 1m45.476s to beat Leclerc by 0.127s.

The Red Bull Racing and Ferrari cars were generating lap time in dramatically different ways. Perez was fastest of all in the straightforward first sector, but Leclerc made is all back with a purple time in the second split, which comprises 11 of the track’s 20 turns.

The last sector, comprising the flat-out run from Turn 16 to the first corner, went Perez’s way by 0.2s, setting the classification in his favor.

Max Verstappen followed in third and 0.334s adrift, but the Dutchman was unhappy with the balance in his RB18. He fractionally avoided the barrier when he spun his car late at Turn 15, and he vented on team radio that his car kept wanting to push him wide at the tricky downhill braking zone despite being off throttle.

The RB18 also appeared to be shaking dramatically down the end of the long straight, with the rear wing and in particular the DRS flap bending and shimmying severely heading towards the first turn. Team boss Christian Horner said after the session that he thought some teams had already lodged enquiries with the stewards about the flexing wing.

Charles Leclerc found time in different ways than pace-setter Perez, but both Red Bull and Ferrari had issues to deal with. Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

The No. 1 was far from the only machine shaking, though. Carlos Sainz reported extreme porpoising from early in the session, and while every car seemed to suffer bouncing, few had it nearly as bad as the Spaniard, who ended half a second off the pace.

Fernando Alonso was an impressive fifth in an updated Alpine, albeit a full second off the pace. He was third quickest in the speed trap, just 0.6mph slower than the two Red Bull Racing drivers and comfortably ahead of everyone else.

Lewis Hamilton followed for Mercedes — his car seemingly bouncing with the highest frequency of any of the cars — beating Yuki Tsunoda and Mercedes teammate George Russell to sixth.

Pierre Gasly was ninth despite a late lock-up at Turn 15, while Esteban Ocon completed the top 10. There was an almost 0.8s gap back to Lando Norris in 11th, who ended the session ahead of Lance Stroll, Kevin Magnussen and Sebastian Vettel.

Alfa Romeo teammates Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were 15th and 16th ahead of Alex Albon and Daniel Ricciardo, who was the last of the drivers who completed the hour.

Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher were early victims of power unit problems, completing only seven and three laps respectively. Latifi parked his car at Turn 5 when his engine switched itself off, while Schumacher’s Haas developed a massive fluid leak that drenched part of the track and forced him out of the session.

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