Perez pips Leclerc in final Baku F1 practice

Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images

Perez pips Leclerc in final Baku F1 practice

Formula 1

Perez pips Leclerc in final Baku F1 practice

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Sergio Perez narrowly beat Charles Leclerc in Saturday’s final practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mexican’s best time, a 1m43.170s, was only 0.07s quicker than Leclerc’s fastest lap. He was almost 0.14s up on the Monegasque in the first and third sector, the bulk coming along the straight time between Turn 16 and the finish line, but Leclerc halved the difference in the slower middle sector.

Max Verstappen was third and a further 0.2s adrift, though the Dutchman had to abort his first flying lap on soft tires near the end of the session due to yellow flags at Turn 3, flown for an errant Valtteri Bottas.

Carlos Sainz wasn’t able to string together a representative fast lap before the end of the hour, leaving him 0.426s off the pace in fourth.

The final practice result confirmed pre-weekend expectations about Ferrari and Red Bull Racing’s respective approaches, with the former relying on corner performance and acceleration to build lap time and the latter matching with straight-line speed, with the Baku track rewarding both roughly equally.

McLaren rebounded significantly from a low-key Friday spent testing new parts. Lando Norris led teammate Daniel Ricciardo to fifth and sixth, the pair split by half a 10th — albeit both were more than 1.2s off the pace of the leader, a substantial gap between the frontrunners and the midfield.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly pipped George Russell’s Mercedes to seventh by almost 0.1s on another painful day for the reigning constructors champion. The W13 was still bouncing significantly along the straight, its floor audibly scraping along the track apparently uncontrollably.

Esteban Ocon slipped into ninth at 1.5s off the pace on a dimmer day for Alpine after looking like the pick of the midfield on Friday. The French team has doubled down on its low-drag approach and Ocon was almost a match for Perez in the third sector, but the time lost in through the corners was too significant to account for.

Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10 for Aston Martin ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, whose Mercedes was running with an old detuned power unit for this session.

Lance Stroll was 13th ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu and Haas driver Kevin Magnussen.

Yuki Tsunoda beat Alex Albon to 16th ahead of Mick Schumacher, with Valtteri Bottas and Nicholas Latifi propping up the time sheet in 19th and 20th.

The teams have two hours after the conclusion of practice to prepare for qualifying despite a 15-minute delay to pit lane opening for FP3 owing to barrier repairs after a crash in the Formula 2 sprint race.

Qualifying will therefore start 15 minutes late, putting the finishing time for Q3 less than an hour before sunset in Baku.

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