Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen were the only other drivers to get within a second of Ricciardo’s benchmark, with championship leader Sebastian Vettel over a second back in sixth.
The top ten was completed by the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne and the Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer.
Despite a slippery, dusty track surface it took just two laps for Ricciardo to go quicker than the best FP1 time from last year and by the end of the session the Australian was only five hundredths off the official fastest lap – Rubens Barrichello’s 1m 18.436s from 2004.
But while Ricciardo looked in control, others struggled. Vandoorne spun at Turn 2 early on, before Romain Grosjean spun at Turn 9 and backed his Haas gently into the wall. Moments later Vettel, whose Ferrari looked a handful all session, also lost control at the right hander, but kept his Ferrari out of the barriers.
Those incidents proved the prelude to a proper accident at the corner when Antonio Giovinazzi, deputising for the session for Kevin Magnussen at Haas, lost control and went sideways into the barriers. The red flags were brought out for seven minutes as the mess was cleared up, and would appear again in the dying moments of the session as Palmer ran wide at Turn 4 and lost several bits of bodywork, including his front wing, after a heavy bump over the kerbs.
Having also picked up a puncture, the Briton ultimately decided to park up rather than risk sustaining any further damage dragging his car back to the pits.