Published: Sat, March 16, 2019
Sports | By Brett Lawson

Daniel Ricciardo's hard job to get on the podium in Melbourne

Daniel Ricciardo's hard job to get on the podium in Melbourne

2019 saw Ricciardo not only move to a new F1 team, but also a new pre-season training regime with the Australian doing most of his race preparation on home soil, to maximise his summer before returning to Europe. Or at least it should be.

Ferrari have tried to change the narrative but Mercedes have inked their name in the record books each time. Robert Kubica was 4.3s off the pace in 19th, while Formula 2 champion George Russell stopped at the end of the pitlane during the session and finished bottom of the timesheet.

"There's a big gap to close from Mercedes and Ferrari".

The Ferrari duo of Vettel and Charles Leclerc were evenly matched slotting into second and third place.

"It's just a testament to his character", he added, leading a round of applause from drivers, including Mercedes' champion Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel. 'We've got the best team around us.

But four-times champion Vettel painted a gloomier picture, saying his auto was not behaving like it had during testing.

"It's really nice to get back out on track", Hamilton said.

His teammate Leclerc fared even worse, spinning out at turn five late in the session and finishing ninth in the classification, 1.154 seconds behind Hamilton.

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

Ferrari won the Australian GP in 2018 and they could be a bit quicker once again.

But Vettel, who is bidding for a third successive win at Albert Park, torpedoed the notion, insisting the vehicle simply felt different to the one tested in Barcelona, before rubbishing Mercedes' claims of an out-of-shape auto as "b*******".

"I think we are closer with the top teams than we were past year, that's good because that was part of the target", Abiteboul revealed at a Renault Australia event on Thursday.

"It's a long season, so I don't particularly feel that (pressure to win)", he told reporters at Albert Park on Thursday. At this point, we are all flat out trying to understand what happened in the session.

The stop is one of the most popular on the F1 calendar, and there's always a sense of excitement and anticipation as we learn which teams have the pace and which are struggling.

In the first session, the front four were all within two-tenths of a second after Hamilton posted the quickest lap of 1: 23.599, but the spread was greater in the afternoon. "The vehicle feels like it is in a similar place to where it was in Barcelona, which is positive coming from a different track".

"Of course, I'm always anxious and we had a laugh previous year because I couldn't get hold of him or my chief strategist or one of the race engineers because they were racing motorbikes", he said.

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