MONTMELO, SPAIN - MARCH 09: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during day four of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 9, 2018 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
MONTMELO, SPAIN - MARCH 09: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during day four of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 9, 2018 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ricciardo ready to make run at Aussie GP

DANIEL Ricciardo faces a pivotal year in his Formula One career with expectations of a much-improved Red Bull performance and mounting speculation over where he will drive next season.

The 28-year-old Australian, who embarks on his eighth F1 season under the suffocating pressure and hype of competing at a home Grand Prix in Sunday's opener in Melbourne, endured a frustrating 2017 campaign.

He retired from three races with engine-related problems, including the misery of failing to finish in last year's Melbourne race, and amassed 70-places-worth of grid penalties stemming from the unreliability of the team's Renault engines.

But Ricciardo is considered a championship threat with Red Bull's new RB14 car expected, along with Ferrari, to threaten the Lewis Hamilton-led Mercedes' domination.

Red Bull's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.
Red Bull's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.

The optimism comes from winter testing in Barcelona when Ricciardo consistently registered fast lap times, suggesting Red Bull may have overcome the teething issues of last year.

"It feels like we are in a better place than we have been the last few seasons," he said ahead of the new season.

"We seem solid. Soon we'll know on one-lap pace where we are, but I don't think we are far off." Reliability will be crucial if they are to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes and Ferrari.

Red Bull had lifted four straight drivers' and constructors' world titles when the Australian was promoted from Toro Rosso in 2014, but have not claimed another since with Ricciardo winning five races for the senior team.

Friday

First practice 12pm

Second practice 4pm

Saturday

Third practice 2pm

Qualifying 5pm

Sunday 

F1 Race 4:10pm


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