Fresh from winning at Monaco last time out, Perez, who is looking to become the first double winner at Baku, topped the timesheet in first practice, 0.127s clear of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc who split the Red Bulls. 

Perez finished 0.334s clear of Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, who narrowly avoided the barriers when he spun at Turn 15 towards the end of the session. 

Carlos Sainz was fourth-fastest for Ferrari, half a second off the pace, while Alpine's Fernando Alonso took best of the rest spot in fifth, over a second down on Perez's benchmark. 

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was the fastest Mercedes driver in sixth but 1.1s off the pace, ahead of AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and teammate George Russell. 

Pierre Gasly was ninth-quickest to ensure both AlphaTauri cars featured inside the top 10, ahead of Alpine driver Esteban Ocon. 

The under-pressure Daniel Ricciardo’s woes continued as he set the slowest representative lap time in 18th, over three seconds off the pace. 

Ricciardo was ahead of only Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Haas driver Mick Schumacher, whose respective sessions ended prematurely due to technical issues. 

Bouncing a headache for the drivers 

Many of the cars were noticeably bouncing around much more than usual during the opening 60 minutes of running at Baku, leading to several complaints from the drivers over team radio. 

The Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull drivers were visibly struggling with the phenomenon known as porpoising, with the rear wing on Verstappen’s RB18 suffering extreme flexing along the main straight. 

“The wing on the main straight is insane,” the reigning world champion reported over team radio. 

Meanwhile, Gasly said the “ride is pretty shocking”, adding that he had “never felt that much bottoming” in an F1 car before.