05/24 11:49 CDT Red Bull's hopes of Monaco pole boosted by strong practice
Red Bull's hopes of Monaco pole boosted by strong practice
By JEROME PUGMIRE
AP Sports Writer
MONACO (AP) --- With its slow straights and tight corners, the Monaco Grand
Prix offers Red Bull a strong chance to secure pole position for the first time
That impression was reinforced on Thursday, as Daniel Ricciardo topped the
first two practice sessions ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen. In sunny
conditions, the Australian driver finished a fraction ahead of Verstappen in
both runs on the tight 3.4-kilometer (2.1-mile) street circuit.
"I feel we set as much of a benchmark as we could," said Ricciardo, who won the
Chinese GP last month. "Our long run looked decent. It is not everything around
here, but we seem to be good in all conditions at the moment."
Sebastian Vettel was third quickest for Ferrari, and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes
was fourth in the second practice, reversing their positions from the opening
session. Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari was fifth, and Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes
sixth in P2.
There is a third and final practice on Saturday ahead of qualifying.
"I'm sure Ferrari and Mercedes will start to put some more pressure on us.
They'll definitely close that gap (in qualifying)," Ricciardo said. "I still
feel if we can put together a really good lap we have a very good chance."
Neither Red Bull driver has qualified higher than fourth in qualifying so far.
"We've always had a strong race car, but (qualifying) is where we've tended to
struggle," team principal Christian Horner said. "Hopefully with the shorter
straights here and with this circuit layout, it offers us our best qualifying
chance of the season."
Gaining pole position in Monaco is more crucial than most races because the
track is notoriously difficult to overtake on. This suits Red Bull because it
neutralizes the superior speed of Mercedes and Ferrari.
"I said the Red Bulls were going to be quick," Hamilton said. "As expected, we
struggled a little bit. The car felt good in some places, in others it felt
Vettel won the Monaco GP last year and the German driver needs another strong
performance after dropping points in the title race. Vettel is second overall
and 17 points behind Hamilton, who has won the past two races with Vettel
placing fourth in both.
A red flag came out during the second session, briefly halting it as repair
work was carried out on a drain cover near the famed Casino.
Verstappen was summoned to stewards for reversing onto the track in an unsafe
manner during first practice, but no further action was taken against the Dutch
driver. He locked up his front left tire on the approach to Turn 1 and went off
into an escape road. Rather than spin the car round, he reversed back onto the
track and Vettel had to cut a corner to avoid him.
Verstappen has been involved in two high-profile incidents this season.
Ricciardo crashed into the back of him in Azerbaijan as they fought for
position with a podium in sight, and both went out of that race. He also
clipped Vettel during the Chinese GP and Vettel finished eighth.
French driver Romain Grosjean, who has failed to finish three of five races so
far, twice clipped the barriers in P1. He is the only driver yet to score a
point along with Russian driver Sergey Sirotkin from the Williams team.
The nervy Grosjean has a three-place grid penalty for Sunday's race after
causing a first-lap crash at the Spanish GP two weeks ago.
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Jerome Pugmire on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jeromepugmire