There’s little doubt that the main talking point to come out of the first two practice sessions for Monaco’s F1 GP round was the sensational lap time for Daniel Ricciardo in P2.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had already lowered the boom on the practice lap time when his Perth born team mate gave a new definition to synergy and laid down a 1:11.841 on the streets on Monte Carlo.
Red Bull are hot favorites to win with the power deficit their drivetrains in qualifying still the only real question mark. However, top speed is not so much in the equation this weekend as the teams will be looking to grip the Monte Carlo tarmac courtesy of extra downforce and the new hypersoft rubber.
Red Bull had an aero upgrade at the last round and combined with the new ultrasoft rubber from Pirelli, potentially the crucial element for Red Bull’s tactics as everyone else has access to the same tires, again it will come down to how Ricciardo, Verstappen, and Red Bull work together.
In no way though can Mercedes be discounted, nor can Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton nailed a 1:12.536 and Ferrari’s Vettel was slightly quicker at 1:12.413. Verstappen though was faster still at 1:12.035, after FP1 and FP2 had been completed.
As competitive as F1 can be, it’s worth noting that after the first two practice sessions, just 2.3 seconds separated Ricciardo and 20th time setter Marcus Ericsson. A 1:14.173 was his time. Local hero Charles LeClerc can be forgiven for being a touch annoyed as his 1:13.575 for 17th was 3/1000th shy of Kevin Magnussenand 3/100s off Sergei Sirotkin.
But then came along the third practice session. Max Verstappenwasn’t to be outdone and belted out a 1:11.787. Ricciardo was 0.133 away and Vettel another tenth. However, with just under nine minutes to go in the third practice session, Verstappenclouted the wall and demolished the front. Verstappen had come into a turn near “the swimming pool” and was baulked by a Renault, resulting in an oversteer that had the right front tap the Armco and that was it.
Under the restart Ricciardo then rubbed salt into Verstappen’swounds, managing to sand off another 0.001 of a second to take the quickest lap time to 1:11.786.
Qualifying now promises to be taken to a hitherto unseen level.