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Azerbaijan GP: Charles Leclerc tops second practice in Baku

Charles Leclerc tops the second practice in Azerbaijan as Ferrari beats Red Bull…

  • Charles Leclerc finished ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in the second practice
  • Sergio Perez, fresh from his Monaco win, was fastest in the first practice
  • The Ferrari man beat Sergio Perez by a quarter of a second in Baku
  • Lewis Hamilton’s battle continued, complaining it was ‘bumpy’

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took first place in practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix while Lewis Hamilton worked his way up to 12th place.

Leclerc, who was denied victory on home soil in Monaco two weeks ago when his team was caught flat on the ground in the wet and dry conditions, defeated Sergio Perez in Baku.

Fresh from winning at Monte Carlo and signing a new contract that will see him remain in Red Bull colors until 2024, Perez was fastest in the opening heat of the weekend.

Charles Leclerc set the fastest lap in the second practice on Friday afternoon in Baku

Charles Leclerc set the fastest lap in the second practice on Friday afternoon in Baku

The Ferrari man beat Mexican Sergio Perez by a quarter of a second in Azerbaijan

The Ferrari man beat Mexican Sergio Perez by a quarter of a second in Azerbaijan

But the Mexican was caught by Leclerc later in the day and followed the Ferrari man by a quarter of a second.

Ferrari and Red Bull remain at the top of the Formula 1 class with world champion Max Verstappen third in order, three tenths back.

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso finished fourth ahead of Alpine, albeit almost a second slower than Leclerc, with Carlos Sainz fifth in the other scarlet car.

Sergio Perez was fastest in Friday's opening practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Sergio Perez was fastest in Friday’s opening practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Hamilton will enter the Azerbaijan GP on Sunday – the eighth round of 22 this season – already 75 points behind Verstappen, the equivalent of three wins.

And his Mercedes team continues to fight the harbor porpoise problems that have ravaged their campaign, as both Hamilton and team-mate George Russell suffered heavy bouncing on Friday.

At one point in the first session, Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington advised his driver to be wary of crossing the pit line when completing a lap.

Perez hopes to follow his Monaco win with his second Baku win in as many years

Perez hopes to follow his Monaco win with his second Baku win in as many years

A frustrated Hamilton replied, “It’s so bumpy, I couldn’t see the line.”

Russell, who finished every lap ahead of Hamilton in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, 34 points ahead of his teammate in the standings, finished seventh, 1.3 seconds off the pace.

Verstappen leads Leclerc at the top of the championship by nine points, but the Dutchman complained of understeer during practice and lost control of his Red Bull at the end of the opening session.

Charles Leclerc bounced off recent fortune slump to set fastest lap

Charles Leclerc bounced off recent fortune slump to set fastest lap

Championship leader Max Verstappen finished third but got a spin late in the session

Championship leader Max Verstappen finished third but got a spin late in the session

Verstappen spun into Turn 15 but crucially avoided contact with the barriers before returning to his garage.

In the closing action of the day, Verstappen had to slow down when he was on a fast lap after Perez spun in the opening corner. Leclerc also took a detour off the track when he lost control of his Ferrari in corner 7. Both drivers escaped unhurt.

British driver Lando Norris, fully recovered from the tonsillitis that struck him at recent rounds in Spain and Monaco, finished 10th ahead of McLaren, four places ahead of pressured team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Lewis Hamilton found himself all the way down in 12th and sounded visibly frustrated with his fate

Lewis Hamilton found himself all the way down in 12th and sounded visibly frustrated with his fate

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