Sergio Pérez went quickest in the opening practice session for this weekend’s FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull Racing team-mate Max Verstappen.
The Monaco-winning Mexican driver, who last week also signed a two-year contract extension with Red Bull set a best time of 1:45.476 to beat Leclerc by 0.127s. Verstappen ended the session in third, over three tenths adrift of his team-mate.
The session on the punishing Baku City Circuit got off to a busy start with the bulk of drivers taking to the track in the first few minutes. Running was slowed after seven minutes when Mick Schumacher was forced to pull over at the side of the track in Turn 12 with fluid leaking from his Haas. The Virtual Safety Car was deployed while Schumacher’s car was recovered. The German driver was forced to sit out the remainder of the session.
When the green flags were shown again Verstappen set a new benchmark of 1:48.390 but the VSC was soon in play again, this time for Nicholas Latifi. The Canadian driver stopped on track at Turn 5 and like Schumacher he failed to return to the track before the chequered flag.
Once running resumed, championship leader Verstappen improved to 1:46.932 to take top spot, just seven hundredths of a second ahead of closest title rival Leclerc. That margin was then widened as the Dutch driver posted a lap of 1:46.477 to put half a second between him and the Monegasque racer.
Pérez then edged the Ferrari driver out of second place. The Mexican was, however, using medium tyres while Ferrari ran on the C3 hard compound in the first half of the hour-long session.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Pérez leaped to the top of the order with his best lap of 1:45.476 and Leclerc improved to push Verstappen out to third place.
Fourth place on the timesheet went to Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari. The Spaniard noticeably struggled with porpoising on the long straights, however. Sainz’s compatriot Fernando Alonso was fifth fastest ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who also suffered violent porpoising in his Mercedes W13. AlpahTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda took seventh place, ahead of George Russell in the other Mercedes in eighth while AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon completed the top 10.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing 21 1:45.476
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 21 1:45.603 0.127
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 25 1:45.810 0.334
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 22 1:46.012 0.536
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine 22 1:46.571 1.095
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 21 1:46.667 1.191
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 25 1:46.696 1.220
8 George Russell Mercedes 24 1:46.705 1.229
9 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 25 1:46.830 1.354
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine 21 1:46.917 1.441
11 Lando Norris McLaren 19 1:47.691 2.215
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 24 1:47.847 2.371
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 24 1:47.946 2.470
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 22 1:47.970 2.494
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 22 1:48.078 2.602
16 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 1:48.222 2.746
17 Alex Albon Williams 22 1:48.419 2.943
18 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 22 1:48.810 3.334
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams 7 1:50.921 5.445
20 Mick Schumacher Haas 3 1:58.332 12.856