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Dan of steel: Riccardo in record-breaking Monaco drive

On top: Red Bull’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo was fastest in practice on Thursday © AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC

MONTE CARLO, Monaco, May 24 – Record-breaking Daniel Ricciardo made it a ‘double top’ for Red Bull on Thursday when he and team-mate Max Verstappen dominated second practice for the Monaco Grand Prix.

But he warned that he expected a backlash from both Ferrari and Mercedes in a much-tighter contest in qualifying on Saturday.

The Australian lapped the unforgiving steel-lined streets of the Mediterranean principality in one minute and 11.841 seconds to outpace the Dutchman by nearly two-tenths with the first sub 1:12 lap at the track.

The pair had earlier dominated morning practice to establish themselves as the team to beat this weekend with Ferrari and Mercedes in pursuit.

“The intention this weekend was to try and win and to be dominant,” said Ricciardo.

“So, this is a good start. Today is good. We topped the sessions so, for now, we have done all we can.”

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari was third ahead of current series leader and defending four-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, with the two Finns Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes fifth and sixth.

Vettel was less impressed by the Red Bull romp than most.

“They always look a bit stronger on a Friday, so let’s see if it’s the usual again — I think it will be very close and I don’t have a favourite yet.

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“We need to look at ourselves, which is what we do, and try to do our homework. I was pretty comfortable in the car.

“It was sliding too much, but as long as you know where it’s going to end up and how it’s going to slide, then I think it’s fine.

“Now we need to get on top of the sliding and reduce it and I think we will pick up some pace. Then we should be in a good position.”

Nico Hulkenberg of Renault was seventh ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne and his McLaren team-mate, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso with another Spaniard Carlos Sainz 10th in the second Renault.

It was a clear show of Ricciardo and Red Bull’s harmony with the new pink-walled ‘hyper-soft’ tyres at the resurfaced track where their nimble car looked outstanding on warm afternoon.

“We have a day off now, then Saturday — and I am sure Ferrari and Mercedes will start to put pressure on us. It is going to tighten up on Saturday but all we could do today was try and top it and we did.”

Verstappen said: “For sure, they will come close in qualifying because of their engine modes, but I’m sure we can still do better so it’s pretty good.

“There’s not too many set-up issues so that always helps on a street circuit.”

The Dutchman had traded record fastest laps with his team-mate before Ricciardo took final control after a red flag interruption for track repairs.

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After 15 minutes, action resumed and in the near-frenzied traffic, the Dutchman clocked a new record in 1:12.035, to go three-tenths clear of Ricciardo.

The Australian, fastest in the morning, had said he felt confident of fighting for victory on Sunday.

“I feel one got away from me a few years ago,” he said.

“So, I’m going to have to work for it, but I would love to have this feeling every race, that we genuinely believe we’ve got a chance to win. I’m ready to win.”

After trimming his times, Ricciardo became the first man into the 1:11s with a lap in 1:11.841, another record and good enough on this day to put him on top of the timesheets.

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