Daniel Ricciardo’s ambitions of shining on home turf were blown apart when the Red Bull driver was caught out by his car’s reaction and subsequent crash into the barriers.
Ricciardo had embarked on his first flying lap in Q3 when his unforgiving RB13 snapped as he rounded Turn 14, sending the Aussie backwards into the barriers and inflicting damage to the rear and right corner of his car.
The mishap cost the Honey Badger a chance to fight for a spot at the upper end of the grid for his home race, leaving him to start tomorrow’s race from tenth.
“It happened quickly, I could feel the rear was on the edge, it was starting to come around,” he said.
“I tried to catch it but it came around. As the result of more downforce and more grip, when you lose it it’s a lot more violent and aggressive – so it caught me out.
“There is still a bit to learn and don’t tend to find myself in the barriers much, so it’s a bit of an odd sight to see me in to the barrier.
“The cars have more grip, which makes them stick to the track more – but when it goes wrong they bite a bit harder.
“They are new beasts. I am positive about it – I like the cars.”
Ricciardo said he felt bad for imposing an extra workload on his Red Bull crew. The additional labor could imply a gearbox change if damage warrants, which would in turn entail a grid penalty for the Aussie, sending at the tail end of the field.
“I created a bit more work for myself and unfortunately for the mechanics,” he added.
“I feel for them, I know they have had a long weekend, tough getting cars prepared. We will turn it into a bit of aggro tomorrow and hopefully buy them a few stubbies after a better result than today.”
Valtteri Bottas got his Mercedes career off to a good start after taking third place on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix.
The Finn’s previous best grid position at Albert Park Circuit had been 15th place, making this an auspicious start to his season.
Not that you’d notice. He certainly didn’t sound all that thrilled by the achievement when talking with the media afterwards.
“Well, you know, third position is not ideal. I think in general I’m not happy with the result,” he sighed.
“Myself, I didn’t quite get any really perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.
“But what I am really happy about – I’m proud about, like Lewis said – is what the team have done again have done with this car.”
Bottas only joined the team from Williams in January. He was a late replacement for Nico Rosberg, who shocked the world of motorsport with his retirement five days after winning the 2016 title.
That means the new 2017 Mercedes car was developed with a different driver than Bottas in mind. Not that it seems to have been any great setback in pre-season testing and now the race weekend.
“I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car in the new era of Formula 1. It’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off.
“We’re fighting at the very front. It seems to be very close this year, at least here.”
Bottas was optimistic that Mercedes would be able to successfully see off its rivals on Sunday.
“Tomorrow is the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. Hopefully we can keep that form like we’ve had it in practice and have a nice and clean race. And get some points!”
Sebastian Vettel will line up alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the Australian Grand Prix, conceding 0.268s to the Mercedes driver in Saturday’s qualifying session.
Like all drivers involved in Q3, Vettel set his fastest lasp on the ultra-soft compound, the favoured tyre here in Melbourne
Compared to last year’s event at Albert park, the gap between the two men on the front row has been meaningfully reduced, proving the level of Ferrari’s progress this year.
“I think we have a good car, we’re working well as a team and things are improving,” Vettel said.
“We had a mixed day yesterday but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed it again today.”
As soon as Vettel concluded his ultimate qualifying run, Ferrari boss Maurizio Arrivabene left the pit walk with a body language that appeared to express disappointment with Vettel’s performance.
But while the German driver was indeed not all that satisfied with his last run, he admitted the pole position was also out of reach.
“In the end, I was not entirely happy with my lap. Pretty happy in the end but so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much, but I think Lewis did a very good lap so.
“I would have loved to but I don’t think pole was up for grabs,” Vettel added.
The four-time world champion is confident however of mounting a challenge on Sunday, reiterating his belief that team and car have come a long way over the past year year.
“Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday.
“It’s been a big winter for us, with a lot of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last twelve months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger
“Of course everybody has been pushing very hard. It’s not so easy to come, it’s a long journey to get to Australia but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow. ”