Ricciardo tops opening practice

GETTYSebastian Vettel won the season opener in Melbourne

GETTYSebastian Vettel won the season opener in Melbourne

"Yesterday our race pace didn't look bad but I think our auto in FP2 wasn't as good as it is now, so it's encouraging to know that our vehicle should be even better tomorrow and hopefully it puts us in the fight".

Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas was second in the session with Finnish compatriot Kimi Raikkonen putting Ferrari in third and making it three different teams in the top three.

But he would step up to the plate taking fifth and shall be promoted to fourth on the grid for the race after the five-place gearbox penalty for Lewis Hamilton.

"We changed a few things this evening and it didn't work as we expected, but the morning was better for us".

Red Bull Racing's Ricciardo wasn't in the mix during the beginning of the first practice session of the weekend, but in the final 30 minutes set a lap-time of 1m31.060s to go ahead of everyone else.

"The auto feels OK, but we still need to find some pace, especially for a single lap", Bottas said.

Daniel Ricciardo gave Red Bull a boost by posting the fastest time in the first practice session for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Friday.

The Finn was summoned to the stewards afterwards for an unsafe release from the pits but escaped a grid penalty with Ferrari picking up a 5,000 euro (US$6,136.50) fine instead for the misdemeanour.

Raikkonen was just under four-tenths of a second behind Ricciardo's fast lap, while his team-mate Sebastian Vettel was not too far behind in fourth.

His time in the Friday afternoon session was not representative of his actual pace, however, as Hamilton locked up in his Mercedes while on his fastest lap before then reporting his tires were "dead".

The Dutch driver got out and helped stewards wheel the auto back to the team garage. The Dutch driver spun early into the season-opening Australian GP two weeks ago, finishing in sixth place. "I'll try to improve the feeling and balance to put myself in the best position possible".

"Not the amount of running I wanted but I think second practice was really decent in the long run", Verstappen said.

Verstappen headed into the qualifying session with the hope he could get his auto high up on the grid for tomorrow's race.

Vettel won in Melbourne, profiting from an error by Mercedes to finish ahead of Hamilton, who was leading from pole.

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