Daniel Ricciardo set a new lap record in the second practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix as Red Bull continued to dominate on Thursday.
Having led a one-two in FP1, Ricciardo was once again fastest and lowered the fastest lap time to a 1m11.841s to beat teammate Max Verstappen by 0.194s. While the two Red Bulls were relatively closely matched, the gap from Ricciardo to Sebastian Vettel was over half a second, with Lewis Hamilton 0.7s adrift in fourth place, and Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas — fifth and sixth respectively — the only other drivers within a second.
Such margins are significant on such a short circuit, with the gap between Vettel in third and Nico Hulkenberg in seventh less than 0.1s bigger than the margin between Ricciardo and the lead Ferrari.
If the fight at the front doesn’t seem all that close at this stage — a statement that could be premature given Mercedes and Ferrari’s ability to turn up their power units during qualifying — then the battle in the midfield is going to be fascinating on Saturday. Hulkenberg in seventh down to Charles Leclerc in 17th was a gap of just over half a second and encompassed the remaining seven teams in the field.
Renault led that battle by the smallest of margins, with Hulkenberg 0.03s ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso as both McLarens ended the session in the top ten. Carlos Sainz was tenth ahead of Brendon Hartley, with the New Zealander looking strong in the second session on his first visit to Monaco to race in seven years.
Although the midfield was so closely matched, it was surprising to see both Haas drivers struggling near the foot of the timing screens, with Kevin Magnussen 16th and Romain Grosjean 18th, though the Dane missed out on a lot of running in FP1.
The session was also interrupted for 16 minutes due to track repairs between Turns 4 and 5. FIA race director and safety delegate Charlie Whiting went out to inspect the area, and after some brief work on a drain cover the session was able to resume just shy of the halfway mark.
Once again a number of drivers brushed the wall but there were no real instances of damage, with the closest call coming when Grosjean and Ricciardo got close at the hairpin and Ricciardo’s front wing grazed the left rear wheel of the Haas.
Teams will work to analyze the long run pace from today’s session but have to be wary of track evolution in Monaco, with Friday seeing no F1 running but an F2 race taking place. The rest of the grand prix weekend runs to a normal schedule with FP3 and qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday’s race.