Ricciardo given three-place grid penalty

F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo hopes to end his Australia curse

"I made a mistake, no doubt about it, but is that mistake worth a grid penalty in a practice session when no car's on track, no-one's upside down", he said.

The reds were waved when a timing cable came loose on the start/finish line. A tall ship, signifying the journey the one-time "reluctant traveller" he'd taken to traverse the world after venturing to Europe by himself soon after finishing school.

"I'm very happy with the progress but we have to wait until Melbourne to see where we are". I missed a lot of the Sunday build-up, which was not fun. "Ask me in six months' time".

Ricciardo's thoughts were echoed by team principal Christian Horner. It's a season that shapes as the most crucial of his career to date.

Was that question answered Friday at Albert Park?

"We're the only ones in the top 10 starting on the Supersoft", he said.

Only Brazil (just 13 points in seven appearances) has produced a worse record than Australia (22 points in six), while his one moment in the sun, when he crossed the line second on his Red Bull debut back in 2014, was scuppered by his auto being excluded for breaching the sport's fuel flow regulations, a crestfallen Ricciardo having to hand back the second-place trophy he'd hoisted in front of a delirious crowd only hours earlier. While he did abort his ultra-soft flying lap, Ricciardo failed to slow enough and subsequently was handed the home race grid drop.

Ricciardo was fifth fastest at the end of qualifying, his time of 1:23.494s just a tenth off that of team mate Max Verstappen.

However, in this case, the stewards thoroughly reviewed the breach and found that the driver slowed significantly, such that no danger was created, and that Ricciardo proceeded with due care and therefore imposed a lesser penalty than usual, handing him a three grid place penalty and two penalty points.

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As for whether he will one day be crowned world champion, he is more circumspect.

While Hamilton has insisted his final-lap improvement was not down to a switch to a faster engine mode, Ricciardo admitted the way Mercedes was able to turn up the power for qualifying was disheartening.

Hamilton will be fighting against two Ferraris at the start of the race, at least.

"I don't really know with the balance what I could have done, there's much, much more [pace] there so I'll see now but yeah, for sure it's frustrating a little bit".

Hamilton, who leads F1 all-time rankings in poles for both the Australian GP and overall, felt his lap was "as close as it gets" to perfection. It looked like it was all in the first sector.

"I don't think they wanted to give him the penalty but they had to", he said.

He said, "I didn't expect that much".

"Having the chance to be able to fight for something really meaningful - races, championships - that's the absolute priority".

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