Daniel Ricciardo has plenty to smile about.
Daniel Ricciardo has plenty to smile about.

Ricciardo sets hot early pace at Monaco

DANIEL Ricciardo lapped Monaco's metal-fenced streets in record time as Red Bull dominated practice for Formula One's most glamorous grand prix.

The 28-year-old Australian was fastest in the opening running on Thursday before setting a record-breaking lap later in the day to cement Red Bull's status at the pre-race favourites.

That compared to Kimi Raikkonen's 2017 pole position of 1:12.178 for Ferrari, the previous fastest around the Mediterranean principality's unforgiving streets and harbourside.

Daniel Ricciardo is hoping to make a mark in Monaco this weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo is hoping to make a mark in Monaco this weekend.

Ricciardo finished both sessions ahead of his Dutch team-mate Max Verstappen, with Sebastian Vettel third in the order for Ferrari.

Britain's Lewis Hamilton, who holds a 17-point championship lead over Vettel ahead of Sunday's race, was fourth for Mercedes, more than half a second adrift of Ricciardo's blistering time of one minute and 11.841 seconds.

Ricciardo was third in Monaco last year, after taking pole and finishing second in 2016, and is aiming to take the final step on Sunday.

"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."

Lewis Hamilton holds a 17-point championship lead over second-placed Sebastian Vettel.
Lewis Hamilton holds a 17-point championship lead over second-placed Sebastian Vettel.

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 added.

"I still feel if we can put together a really good lap we have a very good chance."

Red Bull principal Christian Horner told Sky TV: "Both drivers have got a good feel for the car, the car's working quite nicely, but it's only Thursday morning."

"We have had a competitive chassis all year and of course the straights are a bit shorter here, so that concertinas it all together."

Things didn’t go so well for Spain’s Fernando Alonso...
Things didn’t go so well for Spain’s Fernando Alonso...

McLaren's Fernando Alonso, who missed last year's race to compete in the Indianapolis 500 instead, had a difficult opening session with his car suffering problems with its brake-by-wire system.

The double world champion had a better afternoon and finished ninth fastest. Russian rookie Sergey Sirotkin hit the wall in his Williams in the morning, limping back with a puncture, but went out again and was 10th fastest. He then dropped back to 15th in second practice.

Father and son world champions Nico and Keke Rosberg, both retired, entertained the crowd between the sessions by lapping the circuit in their title-winning cars.