Perez sets the pace in Azerbaijan practice

Sergio Perez leads Max Verstappen as Red Bull Racing look the team to beat in Baku

By Toby Lock
Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:06 pm
Sergio Perez led the way in Azerbaijan on Friday
Sergio Perez led the way in Azerbaijan on Friday

Red Bull Racing led the way in Friday's free practice sessions with Sergio Perez leading Max Verstappen ahead of Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mexican topped the time sheets on Friday with a time of 1:42.115, a little over a tenth ahead of his team-mate. The Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charlies Leclerc followed as Mercedes' troubles from Monaco appeared to have travelled with him to the streets of Baku as Lewis Hamilton was 11th and over a second slower, while Valtteri Bottas' running was hampered and he could only set the 16th fastest time.

Heading into the weekend, championship leader Verstappen, who took over the lead with his victory in Monte Carlo last time out, admitted the circuit isn't one of his favourites but expected a Mercedes revival, though on Friday's evidence, that didn't appear to be the case.

Max Verstappen

"The track is ok but probably not a favourite of mine if I’m honest," he said. "I’ve never been on the podium there so it’s time to change that. Let’s see how competitive we are, I do expect Mercedes to come back strong there though."

Along with Verstappen's lead in the driver's championship, Red Bull also took over the constructors' championship lead in Monaco, but Perez said the team isn't feeling any extra pressure as a result.

He said: "It doesn’t change anything. We have to stay realistic and know that it’s race five of the season. It doesn’t matter where we are now, it only matters where we end up at the end of the season in Abu Dhabi. We need to keep our heads down and continue working as hard as we have been doing in the past months."