Daniel Ricciardo: Mercedes not insanely quick

Daniel Ricciardo believes that scoring pole position will be "a stretch" for Red Bull in Australia after seeing Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton dominate the opening two Formula 1 practice sessions of the year on Friday.

Although the team's testing form was inconclusive, it is expected to be strong from the start of the season.

The Belgium-born Dutch driver has been tipped for greatness since he got promoted to Red Bull last season, before becoming the youngest ever victor of a Grand Prix, after he won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. I found some nice restaurants down by the Yarra River so whenever we have time I will head down there for some dinner.

Twelve hours and some five events later, a glassy-eyed Ricciardo cracked jokes and told racing anecdotes at a re-branding party for a Western Australian sponsor specialising in sandalwood production.

The legendary Alan Jones is the last Australian to win any home grand prix - in 1980, when he was also the last Australian to win the world title.

But he won't be putting too much pressure on himself.

"But it's all positive support, it's kind of overwhelming actually". I hear ticket sales are up quite a chunk from past year. I try to enjoy it. "I appreciate it won't last forever".

Red Bull Racing's official partner PUMA launched an activation space at Melbourne Central complete with a replica Formula 1 auto as well as an interactive Pit Stop Station where fans can try their luck to beat the clock changing the car's tyres.

The pair are well known for their convivial relationship since teaming up a year ago and their affable partnership was in stark contrast to that of Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

The other race was won by Verstappen, the teenage wunderkind expected to make life increasingly hard for Ricciardo on the track as he matures.

In stark contrast to Hamilton's bitter rivalry with Rosberg at Mercedes over the past three years, the Red Bull duo appear to revel in each other's company.

Australia's Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo says carrying a nation's hopes doesn't weigh him down. He's no longer a rookie any more.

"It wasn't hot during testing so it's not the most physical challenge for us, so we need to see when we get to a different track, probably a hotter circuit as well", he added. "Hopefully it's hyped up by the fact that we're fighting at the front, that's what we both want".

  • Arturo Norris