Thursday’s two practice session were dominated by Red Bull and that form continued on Saturday, well at least for Daniel Ricciardo who keeps breaking the track record and will start the Monaco Grand Prix on pole. However, it was a different story for Max Verstappen who starts at the back of the grid.
Red Bull’s domination continued in the final practice session though there were mixed results for the two drivers. No complaints from Daniel Ricciardo as he finished fastest and got his hat-trick, claiming a new track record for the third straight session with a fastest time of 1.11.786 seconds, which was 0.055 seconds faster than his best time on Thursday.
He was only 0.001 seconds faster than team-mate Max Verstappen but again the Dutchman showed that however fast his Red Bull is going, disaster may only be just around the corner. He hit the wall at the exit to the swimming pool section and with debris all over the track, it was red flag time and more work for the Red Bull mechanics as they had to repair both front and rear suspension on the right-hand side of his Red Bull
Third fastest was the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel but 0.237 seconds behind Ricciardo. Lewis Hamilton was fourth with Kimi Raikkonen fifth. It wasn’t a great session for Valtteri Bottas who finished sixth fastest but needed a new rear-wing after hitting the barrier at hitting the barrier at Sainte Devote.
The Toro Rosso team had a good session with under-pressure Brendon Hartley in seventh and Pierre Gasly eighth. Carlos Sainz was ninth and Williams will have been pleased to see Sergey Sirotkin finished tenth fastest.
After the success Red Bull had in the practice sessions it’d have been a massive disappointment if they failed to grab pole position for Sunday’s race. They did achieve that aim with Daniel Ricciardo finishing 0.229 seconds clear. Ricciardo dominated qualifying finishing fastest in each section and in the top-ten shootout he recorded a time of 1.10.81.
However, they didn’t have a chance of a 1-2 because that crash Max Verstappen had in final practice ruled him out of qualifying which won’t please his bosses. More bad news followed for Verstappen as he’s been given a five-place grid penalty after a pre-qualifying gearbox change. He’s at the back of the grid anyway but not the best of days for him and he could do with toning down the way he drives after, yet another Grand Prix marred by a crash.
It was Sebastian Vettel who finished second 0.193 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in fourth and Valtteri Bottas fifth. In sixth was Esteban Ocon for Force India with Fernando Alonso in seventh in his McLaren. The Renault of Carlos Sainz was eighth with Sergio Perez ninth and the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly tenth. His team-mate Brendon Hartley was knocked out in Q1 and will start 16th on the grid.
Speaking after qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo spoke of his love for the Monaco Grand Prix: “We didn’t change much on the car this weekend. I have just been able to build up to it and have some fun. I love this race and it’s a pleasure to drive. It has been awesome.” He wasn’t surprised at the fact that Max Verstappen crashed, then again that’s probably true for most F1 fans. Ricciardo commented that: “We need to push it, but you don’t need to over-drive it. ”
Sebastian Vettel was happy with his Ferrari but felt he couldn’t have got close to the time Ricciardo set.
Sunday is Red Bull’s 250th Grand Prix and they look like marking that anniversary with a win. They start the race 46 points behind Ferrari in the Constructors table, while Ricciardo is 48 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton. With Verstappen at the back of the grid, Red Bull won’t make too much of an impact on the Constructors’ Championship standings and if Ricciardo does blast his way to a win, a lot of the interest on Sunday will be on whether Sebastian Vettel can close the 17-point gap between himself and Lewis Hamilton and if Max Verstappen can avoid another crash. I’ll be back with another blog in June – this year is going faster than a Red Bull – till then enjoy your racing.
By Steve Ashfield for Pillow Motor Sports