Red Bull Dominate On Thursday, But Can They Keep Up The Pace?

Red Bull Racing dominated Thursday Practice at the Monaco GP today. Daniel Ricciardo led another Red Bull 1-2 in the second free practice session (FP2). FP2 followed the same pattern as the first practice session, with the Red Bull drivers, Ricciardo and Max Verstappen trading times at the top of the timesheet.

Red Bull Dominate, But Can They Keep Up The Pace?

At the Azerbaijan GP, the Red Bull drivers led by Ricciardo set the pace on the first day of practice. But on Saturday, Ferrari and Mercedes were in front again and led the way in qualification.

Ferrari, in particular, seem to turn the wick down on their engines on Friday. The Italian team has made it a practice not to reveal their hand on the first day of practice. With three engines only allowed for the whole season (21 races), the teams want to conserve their engines during the practice sessions.

Monaco Could See a Red Bull Driver on Pole

Red Bull came into this race with a lot of expectations based on their performance in the last sector during the race in Spain. The form of the team in two days of in-season testing was also impressive. On this track in Monaco, the cars with high downforce excel. The RB14 is well-suited for this track.

The engine advantage that Mercedes and Ferrari enjoy over the Renault-powered Red Bull cars is almost nullified due to the track characteristics here. This short track (3.337 km) offers Red Bull its best chance to grab pole position. The two top teams will turn up their engines in the final qualification session, but on this track it will not give them such a big edge.

Ricciardo Is Hopeful Of Pole Position

Ricciardo topped both practice sessions and is in good form. The Australian grabbed pole position in 2016 and was on track for victory, until a Red Bull pitstop error. He is an expert around this track and thinks pole position is possible.

Ricciardo said:“I think so. Around here if we lost five tenths (of a second) in Barcelona maybe we lose two. But a bit of confidence and a good set up and two tenths can come pretty quickly on a track like this. If we are dialled in we can still do it.

“[Confidence] is a big part of it. You still need the car to help you out everywhere, but the confidence is a big one. This is probably the circuit where if you are feeling it and having a good rhythm and flow, you can find the extra tenth or two. On a more open circuit it is less easy to do.

“If you are confident braking a metre later, rolling off the brake a metre earlier, carrying that speed in and the walls are coming at you fast. But if you can be comfortable knowing that the car is going to hold, that helps. It is just fun. It is really cool. I am excited to get on the hypersoft. I think we will beat that lap record this weekend. It would be nice if I do it!”

Lap Records Continue to Fall on the new Hypersoft tyres

In 2017, Kimi Raikkonen grabbed pole with a 1:12.178s lap time. Already in FP2, Ricciardo’s lap time of 1:11.841s was well under that lap time. The times will continue to fall as the track gets more rubber laid on it.

Sebastian Vettel was third on the timesheets in FP2, 0.572 seconds slower than Ricciardo’s time. On this short track, that is a significant gap to the front. Lewis Hamilton was further back at P4, 0.695 seconds behind.

The midfield was led by Nico Hulkenberg in P7. Renault, McLaren, Toro Rosso and Force India drivers occupied P7 to P14 positions in FP2 and were separated by just 0.363 seconds.

Will the Red Bull Dominance Continue on Saturday?

On a track where track position is everything, the drivers and teams in the first row of the grid have a distinct advantage. If Red Bull can continue their dominant form on Saturday, a front row lockout is possible. With the race pace shown by the team in FP2, a race win is highly possible from there.

Ferrari and Mercedes will work very hard on their setups to close the gap. It will be an intriguing third free practice session and qualification.

The Monaco GP weekend resumes on Saturday (May 26, 2018) after the traditional break on Friday.

Free Practice 2 Results:

Pos No Driver Car Time Gap Laps
1 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:11.841 33
2 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer 1:12.035 +0.194s 41
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:12.413 +0.572s 42
4 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:12.536 +0.695s 34
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:12.543 +0.702s 36
6 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:12.642 +0.801s 38
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:13.047 +1.206s 30
8 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:13.077 +1.236s 40
9 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:13.115 +1.274s 42
10 55 Carlos Sainz Renault 1:13.200 +1.359s 34
11 28 Brendon Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:13.222 +1.381s 47
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:13.370 +1.529s 39
13 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:13.382 +1.541s 47
14 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 1:13.410 +1.569s 32
15 35 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:13.547 +1.706s 44
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:13.572 +1.731s 41
17 16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:13.575 +1.734s 45
18 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:13.763 +1.922s 37
19 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:14.011 +2.170s 34
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:14.173 +2.332s 46

 

MAIN PHOTO:
Embed from Getty Images