Charles Leclerc ended the second F1 practice session top top, ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
His 1min 43.224sec lap was good enough to top the timings, just two tenths ahead of Perez, who picked up where he left off in Monaco, by going quickest in FP1.
Max Verstappen was third fastest in both sessions, while Carlos Sainz is yet to get properly close to his team-mate or Red Bull rivals.
Nonetheless, the battle between the two front-runners looks close once again, with the championship leaders having the edge in the final sector, where the Ferrari was porpoising heavily down the main straight.
On a very windy, 44C track, drivers were not waiting patiently to get out with Verstappen’s 1min 48.574sec lap setting the pace early on.
There was an early finish for two drivers, however, with Schumacher’s Haas experiencing a water leak just seven minutes in, while Latifi’s Williams was the next to retire not long after.
On track, Verstappen continued to improve upon his lap time as Ferrari struggled to get close. While the Scuderia experienced big problems with porpoising, Red Bull was on top of those issues and Verstappen continued to improve upon his lap time.
He then went 1.4 seconds quicker than anybody on track with a 1min 46.932sec lap and, for much of FP1, it was a Red Bull one-two with over half a second gap to Ferrari.
The Milton Keynes outfit had the edge with its superiority over the straights, overcoming its cars’ deficit in the tight and twisty nature of the middle where Ferrari shone.
As the session entered its closing stages, drivers started to set lap times on the soft tyre and this is when Perez hit the top of the timesheet, setting a 1min 45.476sec lap, which was not bettered for the remaining 20 minutes.
Ferrari also improved and Leclerc split the Red Bull drivers with a 1min 45.603sec effort.
While the Monégasque had a strong first session, his team-mate Carlos Sainz was never really there and didn’t have the pace to compete with Leclerc or the Red Bull drivers.
In the end, he went fourth quickest with a 1min 46.012sec lap ahead of Fernando Alonso in fifth, whose Alpine car showed good potential for the weekend.
Next was Lewis Hamilton with a best of 1min 46.667sec, while AlphaTauri showed strong pace in FP1 as Yuki Tsunoda went seventh quickest and Pierre Gasly wad ninth, George Russell splitting the pair.
But, the theme of FP1 was the porpoising with many teams, like Ferrari, experiencing the issue quite heavily down the start-finish straight.
🏁 FP1 CLASSIFICATION 🏁
Last year's Baku winner leads the way as Checo takes P1 👊
Drivers switched to the soft tyres at this point and, with 27 minutes to go, Leclerc finally bettered his earlier lap with a 1min 43.224sec time.
Perez subsequently went 0.248sec slower than Leclerc, just ahead of Fernando Alonso in fourth with a 1min 44.142sec lap.
It wasn’t until with 20 minutes to go that Verstappen went to set a time on the softer compound but had to abort that lap after his team-mate caused a yellow flag in the same sector.
Perez knew he wasn’t going to make turn 15 so he had to go onto the escape road; a route followed by many in FP2.
Stroll and Sainz found themselves there earlier in the session; Lando Norris locked up at turn three to go onto the run-off area; and Schumacher, who was able to drive despite his problem in FP1, did so at the following corner.
Latifi, who also had to retire from FP1, was able to compete in this session but this time it was his team-mate’s practice that ended early, as Alex Albon suffered slight damage to his car after hitting the wall at turn 17 with 20 minutes to go.
With 14 minutes left, Verstappen was finally able to set a time on the soft tyre but it was still only good enough for third fastest with the Red Bull man 0.356sec off Leclerc.
That lap from Leclerc was not to be bettered for the remaining of the session while his team-mate could only manage P5, after being the only driver to set their fastest lap on the medium compound.
This meant it was a very strong session from Alonso, who was able to continue his good form in FP1, by finishing fourth in the timings.