MELBOURNE (Reuters) — Daniel Ricciardo's
promotion to the Red Bull hot seat promised a more pliable partner for
Sebastian Vettel, but the 24-year-old's impressive qualifying at his
home Grand Prix suggests the world champion has another gritty
Australian to deal with.
Tensions with his former team mate Mark Webber were a hallmark of
Vettel's four championship years as the chisel-featured Australian
railed at playing second fiddle in the Red Bull garage.
The German's ruthless pursuit of victory, occasionally at Webber's
expense, endeared him to few Down Under and a certain schadenfreude
was detectable in the cheers at Albert Park when Ricciardo finished
second in qualifying on Saturday compared to Vettel's 13th.
Ricciardo will line up with Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton on the front
row on Sunday but will no doubt be hogging the headlines in local
newspapers after showing creditable composure on a greasy track
doused by rain showers.
Rather than save his best until last like Hamilton, a determined
Ricciardo set the pace from the outset, topping the timesheets early
and re-claiming the front running with seconds to spare before being
"It was nice to always be up there," Ricciardo told reporters,
flashing his trademark toothy smile.
"The engineer was on the radio saying: 'pace is good, P1, P2, P3'
and it was always that battle for the pole position so definitely a
really nice first qualifying session with the team.
"We'll have to see what went wrong with Seb and his side of the
garage, but for now, it's happy for me to be at least up here.
"It wasn't looking like this a few weeks ago. Pretty pleased right
Webber was a welcome presence at Albert Park throughout his F1
career, and has remained so this week despite playing no part in the
However his failure to perform at home, despite collecting nine wins
overseas, was a disappointment to local fans.
Ricciardo, who crossed from Red Bull's sister team Toro Rosso in the
off-season, faces a tall order to become his country's first home F1
winner, with Mercedes expected to be dominant on dry-weather tires.
But the front row was enough for Ricciardo to be the star attraction
at the post-qualifying media conference where Hamilton and
third-placed Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg were largely ignored by
"For me to start the season with a front row, it does a lot of good
things for the confidence," said Ricciardo, who has yet to climb an
"I'm really excited but at the same time, I'm still staying calm and
collected, because tomorrow's what counts, so there's no point
having a party tonight and not focusing on tomorrow.
"I've been sleeping well, I've been pretty worn out by the end of
the day, with all the extra-curricular activities today, but I'm
sure I'll sleep well tonight."
More heartening for Red Bull was Ricciardo's confidence that the
RB10 car his team fought with during a dismal winter testing was
starting to behave.
"In testing unfortunately, a lot of the time we were circulating to
learn about reliability and to stop things from over-heating so we
weren't really focused on what set-up we were running or any of
that," he said.
"I think all the aero guys are gathering more information and making
the car a bit quicker each time we run.
"It's definitely a positive for us now, and hopefully the upward
trend continues and we can start to hassle these (Mercedes) guys in
dry conditions soon."