Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo continued the team’s strong start to the weekend to lead home team-mate Max Verstappen in FP2.
This is my report for Essaar GP that I did covering the second free practice in Monaco ahead of the GP weekend.
It was Verstappen’s blistering pace early on that put him to the top of the time-sheets with a 1:12:071 just before a red flag was called for track repairs with just over an hour to go in the session. Marshals and the FIA assessed the track between Turns 4 and 5 to fix a drain cover.
The streets of Monte Carlo are littered with these drain covers and with the amount of running the F1 cars and support series do over the weekend, these covers are checked regularly. In 2016, Jenson Button’s McLaren ran over a drain cover in FP1 after it was sucked up by Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes. The cover damaged Button’s front wing and just goes to show what can happen if these covers aren’t properly secured.
After 15 minutes the drivers headed back out onto the track after the cover was repaired. Ricciardo and both Ferrari’s improved rapidly to close the gap to Verstappen but the Dutchman improved again to a 1:12:035.
Verstappen had a hairy moment when letting the Haas of Romain Grosjean past. Grosjean went round the outside of Verstappen at Loews Hairpin (Turn 6), slight contact was made to Verstappen’s front wing but not enough to slow the Red Bull driver down.
Ricciardo knocked Verstappen off the top-step by being the first driver into the 1 minute 11’s and ended the session quickest, nearly two tenths ahead.
Behind the Red Bull’s it was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel nearly six tenths behind the Australian in third with Championship leader Lewis Hamilton nearly seven tenths down in fourth and appeared to be struggling with the rear of his Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen was just behind Hamilton in fifth while the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was sixth, eight tenths off the pace.
While the gap from Red Bull to Ferrari and Mercedes is quite big, both teams predicted that Red Bull would be very strong here.
Renault continued their impressive pace with Nico Hulkenberg seventh and Carlos Sainz 10th while the McLaren’s of Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso sandwiched in between in eighth and ninth. This was a drastic improvement for McLaren after a tough FP1, although they admitted that they are still struggling in the slow corners.
It was also another impressive performance from Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley who was ahead of team-mate Pierre Gasly and both the Force India drivers in 11th place. Toro Rosso showed impressive pace at the start of the session with both drivers running inside the top 10.
Williams’s Sergey Sirotkin was 15th and four places ahead of team-mate Lance Stroll, who touched the wall exiting Turn 16 but sustained no damage.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was 16th ahead of Sauber’s Charles Leclerc in 17th, the other Haas of Romain Grosjean in 18th, Lance Stroll in 19th with Marcus Ericsson’s Sauber completing the field in 20th.