After teammate and Max Verstappen led the way in the opening session, it was Perez’s turn to set the pace in FP2 as he edged out the new championship leader by 0.101s around the Baku City Circuit.

It was a difficult afternoon for reigning world champions Mercedes, with neither Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas featuring inside the top 10 as both drivers struggled with tyre warm-up issues.

Having been unable to set a competitive lap time on the Soft tyres, Hamilton ended up a lowly 11th, over a second down on Perez’s benchmark.

Things were even worse for teammate Bottas, who took a pair of trips down the Turn 1 escape road on his way to finishing two seconds off the pace in 16th.

In contrast, Ferrari enjoyed another encouraging hour of practice as Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc once again looked to be Red Bull’s closest challengers on Friday, with Sainz just 0.128s behind Perez.

Leclerc was a further two tenths behind his teammate but had been on a quicker lap before hitting the barriers at Turn 15 following a lock up.

The Monegasque, who crashed out of Baku qualifying in 2019, was able to reverse out of the tyre wall minus a front wing as he limped back to the garage.

Pierre Gasly managed the fifth-fastest time in his AlphaTauri, ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Antonio Giovinazzi, who produced an eye-catching lap to sit seventh for Alfa Romeo.

Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda completed the rest of the top-10 order for McLaren, Alpine and AlphaTauri.

Williams driver Nicholas Latifi managed just five laps before he caused a red flag stoppage when his car shut down on the exit of Turn 15.

The Canadian had just reversed out of the escape road after a mistake but his Williams engine conked out as he tried to pull away.

Click here for full results from second practice at the 2021 F1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix.