Leclerc ahead of Perez and Verstappen in Baku FP2

Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75. 10.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan
© XPB 

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc returned to the top of the timesheets in second practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, a quarter of a second quicker than Red Bull pair Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

Verstappen lost time at the start of the session as the team engineers worked on the RB18's rear wing. and had to work his way into the session to finish ahead of Alpine's Fernando Alonso. Carlos Sainz didn't get the chance to put in a clean lap on soft tyres leaving him fifth in the second Ferrari.

Leclerc and Perez both had minor incidents which saw them take to the escape road during the session, but the only serious mishap was Williams' Alex Albon thumping the barrier after misjudging the approach into turn 17, resulting in a premature end to his day.

First out on track when the lights went green for the start of second practice was Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, trying out a set of medium compound tyres for the first time today. It was still a very pleasant day in Baku, temperatures slightly cooler than they had been for FP1 but continuing with blue skies and sunshine and absolutely no risk of any precipitation.

Sainz posted the first time of the session with a lap of 1:46.705s which was over a second quicker than the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Esteban Ocon and Zhou Guanyu, while Lando Norris ended up taking to the run off at turn 3 on his first tour. Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi were both back on track after their earlier technical gremlins, and instead it was Max Verstappen whose DRS was receiving attention in the Red Bull garage after the rear wing was observed oscillating to an alarming degree in the first hour.

Rear wing of Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing worked on in the second practice session. 10.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton benefitted from a helpful slipstream tow to set a new time of 1:46.295s ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and George Russell, but his spell at the top didn't last long before Sainz was back in charge with an impressive 1:45.118s, two tenths quicker than first practice pacesetter Sergio Perez and almost a second faster than Alfa Romeo's Zhou, whose latest lap had put him into third ahead of Hamilton.

Sainz' team mate Charles Leclerc then produced a quantum leap in performance with a lap of 1:43.806s, with Alonso improving to second ahead of Sainz but nonetheless more than a second slower than the Ferrari. Both Sainz and Ocon reported having plastic bags stuck in the air intake ducts of their cars, but the problem appeared short-lived and without lasting effect in both cases.

Verstappen finally came out after a 14 minute delay, but wasn't initially fully up to speed and slid his way into a relatively lowly sixth place. That was 1.5s behind Leclerc who continued to look super fast in the opening sector only for Red Bulls to claw back some of the deficit in the final laps - albeit not by the same amount they had done in FP1. Verstappen's next push lap was fast enough for third but still 0.656s off the top, and Perez's own follow-up lap was quick enough to split the two Ferraris at the top just 0.125s behind Leclerc. Verstappen then leapfrogged his team mate to close to within three hundredths of the Monegasque.

Nicholas Latifi (CDN) Williams Racing FW44. 10.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan

The Williams pair of Latifi and Alexander Albon were the first to get true qualifying laps underway on the soft compound tyres. The other drivers (with the initial exception of Verstappen and Perez) were quick to follow: Leclerc duly moved the goalposts to 1:43.224s despite not making up time on his previous best in the final sector, while Sainz was forced to back off allowing Alonso to move into fourth, and Hamilton had a lucky escape in turn 15 that cost him his first push lap meaning he dropped out of the top ten. There was a heavier hit for Albon who turned in too early into turn 17 and thumped the wall leaving him limping back to pit lane for extended damage assessment and repairs.

The yellow flags were out elsewhere for Schumacher, who had taken to the escape road after being distracted by something 'flopping around' in the cockpit. Meanwhile Perez was back underway and had brushed the barrier at turn 15 on his way to retrieving second place, almost a quarter of a second behind Leclerc's latest. He then ended up in the run-off at turn 1, while Leclerc also showed that he was no more immune to the odd mistake when he ventured off at turn 7. Perez then went astray a second time, on this occasion at turn 16, and the resulting yellow flags ended up thwarting Verstappen's first quick lap out on the soft tyres. His follow-up lap moved him closer to Leclerc and Perez, but still left him third.

With a little over 15 minutes remaining on the clock, the teams started to move back to the medium tyres to carry out race distance tyre degradation tests. Leclerc continued to circulate on the softs, as did Verstappen whose late start had made a period of extended running impractical. Perez tucked in behind his team mate to investigate slipstreaming options, but Sainz' hopes of doing the same were suppered by Leclerc reporting a potential power unit issue. The Ferrari pit wall was quick to reassure him that he was still okay to push, but the driver didn't sound entirely convinced - or very happy about the situation.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing. 10.06.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Baku Street Circuit, Azerbaijan

That essentially fixed the order on the timesheets with Leclerc, Perez, Verstappen and Alonso followed by Sainz, Pierre Gasly, George Russell and Yuki Tsunoda, and the top ten rounded out by Esteban Ocon and Lando Norris. Sebastian Vettel was 11th ahead of Lewis Hamilton, while Lance Stroll was 13th after surviving a late visit to the run-off in the final ten minutes after overcooking the approach into turn 15, forcing him to find reverse gear to get back underway.

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