Daniel Ricciardo underlined Red Bull’s potential at the Monaco Grand Prix by leading teammate Max Verstappen in the opening practice session.
The first two practice sessions traditionally take place on a Thursday in Monaco, with Friday a day of no track running in Formula 1. At the start of the extended weekend it was Red Bull — highlighted by many as favorites this weekend given its form in the slow final sector in Barcelona — that set the pace.
Verstappen was quickest for much of the session but then had a lock-up at Ste Devote — Turn 1 — and flat-spotted his tires, limiting his running. Ricciardo was able to complete more mileage than his teammate and duly went fastest with a 1m12.126s using the new hypersoft compound tire, setting a new lap record around Monaco in the process.
The lap time was 0.052s quicker than Kimi Raikkonen’s pole position effort from last season, with much of the gain attributed to the new, softer tire.
After his error, Verstappen ended up second on a 1m12.280s, but could face punishment for the way he rejoined the circuit. The Dutchman reversed back from the run-off area when Sebastian Vettel was approaching Turn 1, and with the Red Bull appearing in the middle of the circuit Vettel was forced to cut the first corner.
Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes and 0.354s adrift of Ricciardo’s time, the only other driver within touching distance of the Red Bull pair. Vettel was fourth overall but the deficit was over 0.9s as Red Bull dominated, with Kimi Raikkonen within 0.1s of his teammate in fifth.
Sixth was Carlos Sainz for Renault at the end of what the team described as a “pretty positive” session, with Valtteri Bottas — sporting a Mika Hakkinen helmet design — seventh ahead of Sergio Perez, Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin.
While Grosjean was one of many drivers to brush the wall on the inside of the second part of the Swimming Pool, Sirotkin had a much bigger moment as the only driver to significantly damage his car. The Russian had a bizarre moment when he touched the wall on the inside of the pit straight — appearing to not allow enough margin for the wide rear tires — and got a right-rear puncture, limping for a full lap back to the pits.
Although Sirotkin’s error was somewhat costly he still managed to finish in the top 10 and complete 40 laps — with only Brendon Hartley (46) and Lance Stroll (43) managing more — whereas a technical issue at McLaren cost Fernando Alonso significant track time.
Alonso had complained that his brake-by-wire system did not feel right on an early run, and he returned to the pits to have the incident investigated after just five laps. The floor needed removing as part of the work to check the system, and he only returned to the track in the final 15 minutes to eventually finish with 16 laps to his name in 17th place.
All of the drivers used the hypersoft tire for their best times bar the Toro Rossos, with Hartley in 12th and Pierre Gasly 14th on the ultrasofts, while Kevin Magnussen had also only used the ultrasofts at the start of his session when he was confined to the Haas garage after just seven laps with a suspected injector issue.