Charles Leclerc ended Friday’s first day of practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as the fastest driver with Sergio Perez second-quickest.Fernando Alonso ended a promising session for Alpine in fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz Jnr in the second Ferrari.
With the second and final practice session of the day starting at 6pm local time, the sun was already beginning its descent down past the high-rise buildings around Baku city. The ambient temperature was slightly lower than the earlier afternoon session, while the track was substantially cooler for the second hour of running.
On his first flying lap of the session, Lando Norris brought out the yellow flags by taking to the run-off at turn three, having to carry out a multiple-point-turn to recover back onto the track. Sebastian Vettel made a mistake under braking for the first turn and also had to turn around to get back onto the circuit.
As a street circuit, Baku is susceptible to the debris of everyday life making its way onto the circuit, as several drivers found. Sainz and Esteban Ocon both complained about plastic bags drifting around the race track getting caught on their cars.
Many teams opted to do long runs on the medium compound tyres. Leclerc used them to set the fastest time of a 1’43.806, almost half a second faster than team mate Sainz. First practice pace setter Perez split the Ferraris to go second, just over a tenth slower than Leclerc, before Verstappen improved to go second himself in the other Red Bull, by less than half a tenth.
The tricky turns and bumpy braking in Baku caught out many drivers during the session. Mick Schumacher ran off into the escape road at turn four, before Perez went off at turn one. Despite being fastest of all, Leclerc demonstrated how difficult the circuit could be by making a mistake into turn eight and also having to seek the sanctuary of the run-off.
Alexander Albon ended his session early in a bizarre incident at the harmless kink of turn 17, somehow hitting the inside wall on the apex of the kink and damaging his right-front wheel.
Eventually, it was time to put the soft tyres through their paces. Leclerc used the softs to improve his quickest overall time with a 1’43.224, before it was the turn of the Red Bulls. Verstappen’s first effort was ruined by his team mate having gone off the circuit at turn 15, forcing him to back off.
The challenging corner of turn 15 was a particular danger zone in the final phase of the session. Lance Stroll missed his braking point approaching the corner and had to reverse back onto the race track, before Sainz did the same in the final moments of the session.
By the time the chequered flag flew, Leclerc’s best time on softs was good enough to see him end Friday quickest of all ahead of Perez by a quarter of a second. Verstappen finished the session a further tenth behind, with Alonso in the Alpine in fourth ahead of Sainz.
Pierre Gasly ended the day sixth quickest for AlphaTauri, ahead of George Russell’s Mercedes and Yuki Tsunoda in the second AlphaTauri. Esteban Ocon’s Alpine and Lando Norris’s McLaren rounded out the top ten.
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2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix second practice result
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||RB18||1’43.472||0.248||22|
|3||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||RB18||1’43.580||0.356||18|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||F1-75||1’44.274||1.050||25|
|6||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||AT03||1’44.315||1.091||26|
|8||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||AT03||1’44.567||1.343||24|
|11||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR22||1’44.781||1.557||27|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR22||1’44.874||1.650||26|
|15||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C42||1’45.115||1.891||25|
|16||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C42||1’45.264||2.040||24|
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2022 Azerbaijan Grand Prix
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