Daniel Ricciardo proved why many have tipped him as the man to beat this weekend after leading both practice sessions ahead of Sunday's Monaco GP.
As is traditionally the case, the first Formula 1 action takes place on a Thursday in Monte Carlo and the twisting streets of the Principality proved the perfect playground for the Australian as he set a new lap record of 1m11.841s in the afternoon.
He also boxed clever by opting to complete a second series of low-fuel qualifying simulations in his Red Bull when many drivers had pitted after becoming frustrated by traffic in the final few corners.
Before that it had looked like teammate Max Verstappen, who survived a trip to the stewards in the morning, would take the honours of the fastest time of the day, instead, the Dutchman had to settle for second just under two-tenths behind.
The Red Bull's advantage is pretty clear though with Sebastian Vettel third but over half a second down in his Ferrari.
Concerns that Mercedes could be the third best team remain but the situation doesn't appear as bad as feared with Lewis Hamilton in fourth, splitting the two Prancing Horses.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas is struggling more than most, however, as the Finn was a second slower than the world champion in the morning and remained the slowest of the top six runners in P6.
New Hypersoft tyre boosting Red Bull
Though Red Bull's remarkable pace was largely expected, it is being further helped by the new Hypersoft tyre compound which is being used at a Grand Prix for the first time.
Designed for low grip circuits such as Monaco, the pink-striped rubber has been graining on both the Mercedes and Ferrari during longer runs, but neither Ricciardo or Verstappen reported such problems.
What graining is, is as the tyre scrubs across the track, small balls of rubber build up on the surface before being worn away.
As more rubber is laid down on the racing line, the phenomena should reduce but with degradation also looking higher than in previous years all this plays into Red Bull's hands.
McLaren & Renault top the midfield
Given the unique nature of Monaco's streets, there is often the potential for smaller teams to surprise and score a good result.
For now, that looks unlikely with only Toro Rosso really showing glimpses of performing better than they have in recent races.
Instead, it remains Renault, who have consistently sat in the top 10 all year, leading the 'best of the rest' with Carlos Sainz P6 in the morning before Nico Hulkenberg was seventh in the afternoon.
An epic battle between them and customer team McLaren is on the cards though, as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne sat eighth and ninth in the afternoon with Sainz completing the top 10.
The four drivers were all covered by just 0.153s too, meaning any minor error come qualifying will be magnified.
It was actually a strong effort from McLaren, who had languished in 15th and 17th earlier in the day, with Alonso missing much of the first practice due to a brake problem.
Outside the top 10, Toro Rosso do look like potential threats for Q3 with Brendon Hartley matching those just ahead in P11.
They are part of a group which includes Force India and surprisingly Haas, with the American team having a troubled Thursday and struggling for pace in 16th and 18th for Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean respectively.
The Frenchman, who'll have a three-place grid penalty for creating the smokescreen on Lap 1 in Spain, produced one of the nervier moments when he touched the wall exiting Tabac but emerged unscathed.
As for Magnussen, he also missed much of the morning after a problem in the cooling system which feeds the engine.
Sergey Sirotkin survived a brush with the barrier in the morning and enjoyed a better result in 15th for Williams, four-tenths clear of his teammate Lance Stroll who had no confidence at all in his car.
Charles Leclerc enjoyed a clean start to his first home race in Monaco and can be pleased with his pace in 17th, six-tenths ahead of Sauber partner Marcus Ericsson who completed the order.
Monaco off to a quiet start
For a first day of running in Monte Carlo, the action was pretty subdued with no major incidents to report.
The only red flag was caused by a loose drain cover on the approach to Mirabeau which required around 15 minutes to re-weld as all covers are due to the immense suction racing cars have.
Friday is a rest day and the action will pick up on Saturday with the final practice session before the all-important qualifying session ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix.
Full results from Thursday can be seen below:
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