Sergio Perez followed up his Monaco triumph by finishing fastest in Friday’s opening practice session for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

A fortnight on from his win on the famous Monte Carlo streets, Perez, who recently signed a deal to remain with Red Bull until 2024, edged out Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.127 seconds in Baku.

World champion Max Verstappen finished third in the other Red Bull, one place ahead of Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz, with Lewis Hamilton sixth for Mercedes, 1.2 seconds off the pace.

Perez took advantage of Verstappen’s late tyre blowout to win last year’s race in Baku – his first in Red Bull colours – and the Mexican has started this weekend on the front foot with Red Bull and Ferrari at the top of the class.

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For Hamilton, the British driver heads into the eighth round of 22, 75 points adrift of Verstappen.

Mercedes continue to combat the porpoising problems which have wreaked havoc on their season, and Hamilton and team-mate George Russell both suffered with heavy bouncing during the first action here.

At one point, Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington advised his driver to be wary of crossing the pit-entry line when he completed a lap.

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

Russell, who has finished ahead of Hamilton at every round bar the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix to move 34 points clear of his team-mate in the standings, finished eighth.

Verstappen leads Leclerc by nine points in the standings, but the Dutchman complained of understeer throughout first practice and lost control of his Red Bull at the end of the session. The world champion spun at Turn 15 but crucially avoided contact with the barriers before returning to his garage.

Elsewhere, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll thudded the wall at the exit of Turn 15, while Nicholas Latifi and Mick Schumacher suffered from mechanical problems in their Williams and Haas cars respectively, and missed a large chunk of the one-hour running.

The second practice session gets under way at 6pm local time (3pm in Ireland).

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Sourse: breakingnews.ie

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