MONACO, (Reuters) – Daniel Ricciardo lapped Monaco’s metal-fenced streets in record time on Thursday as Red Bull dominated practice for Formula One’s most glamorous grand prix.
The 28-year-old Australian set track records in both sessions, first with a one minute 12.126 lap before lunch and then by obliterating that mark in the afternoon with a scorching 1:11.841.
That compared to Kimi Raikkonen’s 2017 pole position of 1:12.178 for Ferrari, the previous fastest around the Mediterranean principality’s unforgiving streets and harbourside.
Dutch team mate Max Verstappen was second quickest in both sessions as Red Bull lived up to expectations that they would be the team to beat on a tight and twisty circuit where aerodynamics matter more than engine power.
“Having the (new) hypersoft tyre gives us that little bit more grip and it’s pretty cool to be breaking lap records,” said Ricciardo. “I’m glad that was the fastest lap that anyone has ever done as it felt so quick. “I think on Saturday we will go even quicker again.”
Verstappen, 20, was summoned to see the stewards after reversing onto the track in the opening session when he ran off at the first Sainte Devote corner, but they decided to take no further action.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton and closest title rival Sebastian Vettel were third and fourth respectively in the morning before reversing those positions in the afternoon.
Vettel’s best time of 1:12.413 after lunch compared to Hamilton’s 1:12.480 in the earlier practice, but he was still more than half a second slower than Ricciardo.
Hamilton leads Vettel, last year’s winner in Monaco, by 17 points after five races.
“The car felt good in some places, in others it felt bad,” said Hamilton. “So we have got some things to work on, but we’re not completely in the dark; we’re in a much better place than we were last year.
“We’re closer to Red Bull and Ferrari than I expected, but we’re still a few tenths off. So we’ve got some ground to cover and pick up if we want to be in the fight for the win.”
Hamilton finished only seventh last year with Ferrari dominant.
Drivers had predicted before the session started that lap records would tumble thanks to the hypersoft tyres, which are making their competitive debut this weekend, and track resurfacing.
Ricciardo was third in Monaco last year, after taking pole and finishing second in 2016, and is aiming to take the final step on Sunday.