The in-form Sergio Pérez led the way in the opening free practice session of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Friday, with the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver edging out Charles Leclerc by just over a tenth of a second.
Coming off the back of his first win of the season in Monaco, Pérez once again showed he has the pace to challenge at the front of the pack at the Baku City Circuit, setting a best time of 1:45.476 to lead first practice, although he slipped to second behind Scuderia Ferrari’s Leclerc in the afternoon’s running.
The Mexican, who goes into this weekend with the knowledge of a new two-year extension to his contract with Red Bull, reckons Friday’s running was a good start to the weekend, but he hopes for more from the RB18 on Saturday where he hopes to be challenging for pole position.
“It was a good start to the day but the second session didn’t go as well as we would have liked,” said Pérez. “We explored some things this afternoon and the results we wanted didn’t come but we have collected good data with both tyres, as well as on the long runs.
“There is a lot to look over this evening and go through to hook it up for qualifying tomorrow. Initially the long run data looks good for the race but there are a lot of details we need to look into more.
“I feel confident around this circuit, as always with the braking you will make some mistakes here and there so I will keep my head down and focus on eradicating that.”
“We just need to fine tune a few things” – Max Verstappen
Team-mate Max Verstappen was unable to match Pérez in either session on Friday, although he did end up third quickest in both.
The Dutchman, who heads the FIA Formula 1 World Championship Drivers’ standings heading into the Baku weekend, felt he was compromised a little by the yellow flags in the first session, but at least he was happy the team have seemingly fixed the issue with his Drag Reduction System (DRS) that has hampered him in recent races.
The one downside for Verstappen during Friday’s running was the lack of data from long runs, with the reigning World Champion unable to do a representative run on heavy fuel.
“Overall it was not a bad day, we look quite decent, we just need to fine tune a few things,” said Verstappen. “I was a bit unlucky with my soft tyre runs in FP1 and FP2, there were a few yellow flags so I had to back out.
“It seems like Ferrari is quite quick over one lap again, the long runs look a bit more even so that’s positive. The tyres seem to be working well after one lap which is good for a street circuit.
“We tried to fix the DRS after FP1, it seemed to be alright in FP2. My long runs went well, I did a grand total of three laps [laughs]. We should have enough info now to know how to play it with tyres this weekend.”