Azerbaijan GP: Perez pips Leclerc by 0.070s in FP3

The start of FP3 was delayed by 15 minutes due to barrier repairs in Turn 1. The Tecpro layers protecting the outside of T1 had been carelessly re-arranged by a multi-car pile-up in the preceding Formula 2 sprint race.

As the lights finally went green, Aston Martin's Lance Stroll went straight out, with Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and George Russell also making an early appearance after a troubled Friday.

Mercedes tried to make the most of a final chance to trial much-needed set-up changes ahead of qualifying in a sunny and dry one-hour session. Twelve minutes in the first time on the board was courtesy of Mercedes, too, a still violently bouncing Russell stopping the clocks after 1m47.256s on softs. That time was quickly beaten by Ferrari drivers Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, the latter leading the way with a 1m44.661s after Sainz had briefly demoted him.

As is often the case Red Bull went out later than most, Sergio Perez nestling himself in the top three before going top with a 1m44.416s just before the 25-minute mark, Max Verstappen first appearing on track around the same time. Verstappen's first timed lap was not half bad either, just half a tenth behind Perez after going purple in sector one, but not as good as Ferrari's next barrage.

Just before the halfway mark Leclerc and Sainz reasserted themselves at the top of the leaderboard, Leclerc's 1m43.514s leading Sainz by almost half a second until Perez leapfrogged the Spaniard into second. After the traditional mid-session lull, action picked up again in a frantic final 15 minutes.

Verstappen took second, cutting the gap to Leclerc to just over a tenth, only for his title rival to extend it to four tenths again with a lap of 1m43.240s. A spin for Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas into the Turn 3 run-off interrupted the final flurry of improvements.

Verstappen couldn't overhaul Leclerc after he aborted his first push lap, but Perez did, setting the fastest first sector on his way to a 1m43.170s, 0.070s faster than the Ferrari driver. The Dutchman tried again in the final minutes but was impeded by a train of traffic in the second sector after going purple in sector one, calling the traffic "unbelievable".

Sainz improved his personal best but remained fourth, some four tenths behind Perez. McLaren proved best of the rest with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo occupying fifth and sixth in the final minutes, some 1.2s off the lead. AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly was seventh, followed by the first Mercedes of George Russell.

Alpine driver Esteban Ocon and Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10, ahead of the second Alpine of Fernando Alonso. Hamilton languished down in 12th after struggling with a lack of rear end grip, a problem which was also reported by Russell. Lance Stroll was 13th, followed by Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu, Haas man Kevin Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda in the second AlphaTauri.

Alex Albon was the first of the Williams cars in 17th, ahead of Mick Schumacher, with Bottas and Nicholas Latifi at the bottom of the timesheets. Apart from Bottas' spin the session remained incident-free, although Bottas did go straight on Turn 2 as well, with Leclerc using the escape road in Turn 15. The delay to FP3 also means that qualifying will be delayed by 15 minutes, the session now starting at 18:15 local time.