Red Bulls Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in both of Thursday’s practice sessions for the Monaco Grand Prix, outpacing his teammate Max Verstappen. Ricciardo was a tenth faster in FP1 then extended the gap over Verstappen to just under two tenths in FP2.
Red Bull strong
This weekend we were expecting that Red Bull would be a major threat to both Mercedes and Ferrari, as this is an aero circuit where you need downforce than speed as well as mechanical grip. The performance has given both the drivers confidence that they are in a good place.
Ricciardo was half a second faster than Sebastian Vettel who was third in FP3. However, you need to be a little bit wary as we know Mercedes don’t tend to show their full hand in practice, but they struggled last year.
Both Verstappen and Ricciardo are still expecting the advantage in qualifying Mercedes and Ferrari to be neutralised and to be ahead. Ricciardo said: “Our gap from practice to qualifying isn’t normally as big as what Ferrari and Mercedes can find.
“In quali they’ll definitely close that gap. I still feel if we can put together a really good lap we have a very good chance. That’s my job on Saturday.”
Ricciardo’s time in FP2, was the fastest ever lap around the streets of Monte Carlo, however three factors contributed to the fastest lap. These were track resurfacing, car improvements and the hypersoft tyre.
The Australian believes that times could see the top teams fall below the 1:12’s in qualifying with the new unofficial lap record.
Ferrari capable of closing gap
Sebastian Vettel believes that Ferrari is capable of closing the gap to Red Bull on Saturday. The German was third fastest in FP2, half a second off his former teammates’ lap and Max Verstappen led him by a tenth.
Vettel failed to hook up a complete lap, however, he believes that set up tweaks will allow him to close the gap. He said “I think we have had some Friday practice sessions where they are quick this year, so I think for us we need to look at ourselves which is what we do and try to do our work.”
“I was pretty comfortable in the car. I was sliding a little bit too much, but as long as you know where it is going to end up and how it is going to slide, then it’s fine.”
Vettel also said he was still yet to push to the limit because he knew that one mistake could be costly, but he was sliding around and knew he wasn’t going to touch the wall.
Like Ferrari, it believed that Mercedes were struggling with the balance of the car, with Lewis Hamilton saying that the handling of the car was “terrible” in places. However, last season they were this far off the pace but closed up to be half a second off in qualifying.
While Hamilton admitted Mercedes had a lot of work to do to fight for victory, he insisted they were closer to their rivals than he expected.
“I didn’t finish my last sector and that was at least three tenths or so, so if you put that back in, we’re a lot closer than I anticipated,” said Hamilton.
Bottas added “A s we expected it was quite difficult today. We thought that Red Bull and Ferrari were going to be quick here and they were.
“The car didn’t feel great in FP1 and we struggled a bit on the HyperSoft tyres. In FP2, we got it to work better. The gaps between the three teams are not too big though, which is good. We know our car has a lot of pace, but it is difficult to find the right set-up for this track.
The Rosberg’s return
Keke and Nico Rosberg completed a short demonstration run in their championship winning cars on Thursday. The duo completed two laps of the circuit in the Williams FW08 and Nico’s 2016 title winning Mercedes.
Father led son initially before they swapped positions for the second lap, Nico drawing alongside exiting the tunnel and locking both front tyres.
Marcus Ericsson, Sauber “Always an amazing and unreal feeling driving here in Monaco ♥️?. Positive day apart from some minor issues on my Q sim in FP2. Looking good for the rest of the weekend ?? #ME9 #MonacoGP #F12018”
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes/Sky Sports “thank you Toto and team for letting me drive my championship winning car again ??”
We will have more analysis in a special edition of F1 Today tomorrow evening