FP2: Leclerc fastest as Ferrari and Red Bull dominate

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc at the castle in FP2. Baku June 2022.

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc winds his way through the castle section of the Baku City Circuit. Azerbaijan June 2022.

Charles Leclerc topped FP2 in Azerbaijan on Friday, ahead of both Red Bull drivers in a session the two front-running teams dominated.

Sergio Perez had to settle for P2 after taking top spot in FP1, with Max Verstappen in behind and Fernando Alonso taking fourth ahead of Carlos Sainz, albeit with the Ferrari driver’s quickest lap coming on harder tyres.

Ferrari and Red Bull appeared almost a second clear of the rest of the field in qualifying trim, which could well prove an ominous sign heading into Saturday.

The heavy braking zones and cross-wind proved to be a tricky mix for the drivers throughout FP1, with several runs down escape roads taking place throughout the session, and Lando Norris became the first to do so in FP2.

The McLaren driver ran too deep in the braking zone at Turn 3, having to bail out of the corner, but successfully managing to execute a 47-ish-point turn to spin himself around and get back on track.

But every driver quickly made their way out on track on the medium tyres to get more running under their belts, with Lewis Hamilton setting a 1:46.295 to go fastest early on, taking advantage of a very handy slipstream from Perez on the start/finish straight to give him a helpful dose of extra top speed.

But before Hamilton could settle at the top, Carlos Sainz blitzed that time with a 1:45.118, going over a second faster than anyone else, before Leclerc came across the line in the sister Ferrari to clock a 1:43.806 – almost two seconds faster than Perez’s benchmark from FP1, and the soft tyres were still under their blankets at that stage.

This left Hamilton 2.3 seconds off the pace and, when he was informed of the news over team radio, his shock was clear – but this was still good enough for a place in the top 10, such was the advantage Leclerc had.

Both Red Bull drivers eventually came to within 0.125s of the Ferrari driver, but as is usually the case in FP2, the session had a moment to pause as the drivers returned to the garage, to refuel and fit soft tyres for qualifying simulations.

Lap times started to come down across the board, but the chasing pack still could not match the pace of Ferrari and Red Bull – even Alonso in fifth on softs was still two tenths slower than Sainz in fourth on medium tyres, before the two-time World Champion pipped his compatriot on his second push lap.

Leclerc quickly pumped in a 1:43.224 to put himself six tenths clear of the rest, while Sainz backed out of his flying lap at the last moment, having matched his team-mate for the rest of the lap.

Elsewhere, Alex Albon had an unusual incident in which he tagged the inside wall at the right-hand kink of Turn 17, turning in too early and scraping the Pirelli markings of his soft tyres in the process – making those tyres unlikely to be used again, and ending his session with front-right suspension damage.

Others also found a bit of trouble while searching for time improvements. Perez and Pierre Gasly both out-braked themselves at Turn 1, while Leclerc locked both front tyres and had to reverse out of the tight Turn 7, before Perez stifled his team-mate’s first qualifying simulation by going off at the escape road at Turn 15.

Verstappen was eventually able to put in a representative time, and lapped a tenth behind last year’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix winner.

Race simulations rounded off FP2 as drivers had the opportunity to assess their long-run pace for the first time, but it looks set for another tussle between the two Ferrari and Red Bull drivers on Saturday.


[All times on soft tyres unless stated]

1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:43.224
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.248s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.356s
4 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.918s
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1.050s [Medium tyres]
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.091s
7 George Russell Mercedes 1.324s
8 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 1.343s
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.385s
10 Lando Norris McLaren 1.547s
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1.557s
12 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.650s
13 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1.650s
14 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1.835s
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 1.891s
16 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 2.040s
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 2.364s
18 Alex Albon Williams 3.173s
19 Mick Schumacher Haas 3.201s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 3.994s