Ricciardo fumes at 'bull****' grid penalty

Max Verstappen

Ricciardo was then summoned to see the stewards before being slapped with a three-place grid penalty for the opening race of the 2018 Formula One season.

Ricciardo therefore entered qualifying with the sanction hanging over him, and was a low-key fifth in Q3, meaning he will drop to eighth on the grid.

"It is the most exciting driver pairing in F1", Red Bull team principal Christian Horner told The Guardian.

"I think they're favourites, personally", he said. He's marginally committed the offence but as soon as it's triggered and goes to the stewards, the stewards have nowhere to go.

Before the cars had turned a wheel at Albert Park last week, Ricciardo's voice was nearly shot, a result of countless interviews answering "5000 questions" about his future, and he was relieved to strap himself into Red Bull's RB14 machine for practice on Friday.

Speaking after the day's action, Ricciardo was pleased with his seventh fastest lap.

Wherever Ricciardo lands - and there are compelling arguments for him to return to Melbourne in 12 months' time in any one of the sport's three standout teams - it will be much harder to keep a secret this time.

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It comes after Ricciardo failed to start last year's Melbourne GP from the grid and finished third in the 2014 race only to be disqualified.

In another big surprise, Romain Grosjean showed good pace in his Haas auto, setting a fastest time of 1:24.648, just ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian aborted his lap but was too quick returning to the pits, failing to stay above the minimum delta time on his dash.

Stewards acknowledged Ricciardo had "slowed down significantly" and "proceeded with due care", but the decision was still taken to penalise the Australian with a three-place penalty.

The Australian, who ended the session in P7, having had his best lap ruined when the red flags were thrown for debris on the circuit, was also given two penalty points on his licence for the offence.

"Breach of this regulation is seen to be an extremely serious matter".

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes in both practice sessions at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday but Red Bull's Max Verstappen showed enough pace to give the Silver Arrows pause for thought.

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