FP1 and FP2 recap: Red Bull leads both sessions as Mercedes struggle and Ferrari remains competitive

Lewis Hamilton, who finished 7th in the morning and 11th in the afternoon, complained about the car’s pace on team radio

By Olivia Kairu

Red Bull heads into Baku leading both drivers’ and constructors’ championships (Photo: Red Bull/Twitter)

Red Bull led both Friday free practice sessions in Azerbaijan with Sergio Perez finishing ahead of Max Verstappen in a 1-2 on the FP2. 

Monaco GP winner Max Verstappen secured P1 during the first practice session after aborting multiple laps due to traffic and yellow flag incidents. The championship leader managed to set the fastest lap time with a 1.43s184 with 15 minutes remaining in the session after Haas driver Nikita Mazepin compromised his first lap on the soft compound tyre. 

Sergio Perez continued to showcase Red Bull’s dominance by topping the FP2 timesheet and finishing 0.101s ahead of his teammate. Speaking after the session, the Mexican driver celebrated being more in tune with the car.

“I think we’ve (made) very good progress,” said Perez. “After Monaco, we did a very deep analysis and today it was like, I finally understand how to drive this car, how I need to drive it, and so on. In all regards, I think this is the best Friday of the season, the most complete Friday in terms of data, in terms of how comfortable I feel with the car

The streets of Baku are the centre of an intense on-track and off-track battle between multiple F1 teams this weekend. The threat of protest lingers in the air amid the ‘bendy wings’ controversy contributing to an already fierce race weekend. 

Further reading: PREVIEW l Five things to watch in the Azerbaijan GP this weekend

Red Bull heads into the weekend looking to extend this lead in both the constructors’ and drivers’ championships, but Mercedes, on the other hand, added to their misfortune as both drivers complained of ‘underivable conditions’.

Lewis Hamilton set the time to beat in the opening stages of FP1 but was quickly upstaged. He later voiced his frustration in his first soft-tyre-runs of second practice. “Do whatever we need to do, I’m not going to go any faster. I don’t know where all the time is,” the Briton told his engineer in the morning session.

The seven-time world champion could only manage P11 in the FP2 while his teammate struggled even more, finishing P16 ahead of only the Haas and the Williams.

After down-playing their chances of keeping the competitive pace shown in Monaco, the Ferraris did great in both sessions with Charles Leclerc 0s043 behind Verstappen and his teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., following closely behind in P3 during FP1.

Both Sainz and Leclerc slid on the red-marked soft tyre in the second session. Sainz maintained P3 and his teammate followed 0.321s behind in P4. While on a flying lap, Leclerc set the fastest first sector but locked up his front-right tire into turn 15, jutting into the barrier and losing his front wing.

Daniel Ricciardo deposed Hamilton’s P1 time early on in FP1 with a 1.43s732, which later ended up as P5 ahead of his teammate Lando Norris, who had trouble completing his fast laps. McLaren have installed their second Mercedes power unit of the season to cope with the demands of the Azerbaijan GP.

Fernando Alonso finished sixth in the FP2, ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon who took ninth.

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Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi caused a red flag when his Williams faced a mechanical issue and stalled in the middle of the track in the second session. Williams reports the engine overheated, initiating a shutdown protocol to protect it from further damage. George Russell had a fairly quiet Friday, staying in P17 for both sessions. 

Lance Stroll finished ahead of Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel in both sessions, coming 13th in the FP1 and 14th in the FP2. The German was 15th on both occasions.

Yuki Tsunoda tousled with his steering wheel while trying to reverse from the escape road after clipping the wall into turn 4 in FP1. He was far from being the only driver to fall victim to run-off areas and escape roads as multiple drivers triggered yellow flags for fleeting moments in time, such as Norris and Hamilton (see tweets below).

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly came sixth in the first session and fifth in the second, despite his own turn 15 run-off during FP2.

Kimi Raikkonen finished 11th fastest in the FP1 ahead of his teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, who soon bested Raikkonen with a 1.42s941 lap time to secure the 7th place in the second session.

The qualifying session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix starts Saturday at 8 AM Eastern Time, 5 AM Pacific Time, with the race starting at the same time on Sunday.

See the full FP1 results:

See the full FP2 results:

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