Daniel Ricciardo laid down his marker for the Monaco Grand Prix by topping the timings in both practice sessions on Thursday. Teammate Max Verstappen was only a hairsbreadth behind as Red Bull got the best out of the hypersoft tyres round the twisting circuit. Considering they gambled in bringing only one set each of the other tyre options this weekend, it was vital the Red Bulls got the best out of the softer compound lest their entire weekend be ruined. In contrast, Mercedes seemed to struggle on the prime tyres, especially in the first session, and toiled to lap anywhere near the Red Bull’s pace in qualifying simulation. Given the importance of grid position on a track that offers little overtaking, this will be a huge worry for Toto Wolff.
Ferrari fared slightly better, with Vettel putting in long stints on the hypersofts in the morning, and clocking the third fastest time in the later session, albeit half a second behind Ricciardo.
It was an uncharacteristic day of clean driving aside from a few nudges with the barriers here and there. Verstappen overshot the first turning in the morning session, and might’ve been lucky to avoid a sanction after reversing right into the middle of the track to get going again, when most drivers would have used the track’s only run-off area to spin the car back around.
Further down the grid, Renault complemented the performance of their engine clients Red Bull by being the best of the rest on both sessions. Completing a good day for the French team was the afternoon running of the R.E.18-powered McLarens, clocking eighth and ninth. With the pressure mounting on Stoffel Vandoorne, outpacing his teammate will have provided welcome relief.
In contrast, the Haas pair failed to shine around the historic Principality, 16th and 19th a poor return for a team that’s taken great strides this year.
Shining under pressure
Towards the rear of the field, Sergey Sirotkin had a strong morning in the Williams (despite puncturing his tyre after a brush with the barrier), posting the tenth quickest time. In contrast, Lance Stroll had an absolute nightmare of a day, constantly off the pace of his rookie teammate, and spending most of the day complaining about any niggle he could find with the car over the radio.
Another driver under pressure recently has been Brendon Hartley, who’ll be glad to have outpaced the impressive Pierre Gasly in both sessions. His 11th place in the afternoon put him ahead of both Force India drivers as their regression continued.
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