Hopes that Daniel Ricciardo can perform strongly in his home grand prix have been boosted by a positive day of practice running at Albert Park.
The Australian clocked 68 laps across the two 90 minute sessions for fifth quickest in Practice 1 and sixth in Practice 2.
The car’s solid run came after a troubled pre-season of testing that saw the team struggle for both performance and reliability.
Although still a second adrift of the pace-setting Mercedes, the Friday running has left Ricciardo to head into tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying sessions optimistic.
“I think we had a really positive day,” he told media at the back of the Red Bull garage after Practice 2.
“For the team, the key to our day was reliability and getting all the laps that we did.
“Some cars didn’t really do any laps at all today so we’re really grateful that we had a smooth day.
“We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but our performance is pretty good.
“We’re in the top 10 quite comfortably at the moment so if we can stay there I’ll be very happy.
“We’ve still got work to do, but generally we’re quite happy.”
Team principal Christian Horner described Friday in Melbourne as his drivers’ first “proper day” in the RB10 following the troubled testing.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel was restricted to just 10 laps in the morning before recording 41 for the fourth fastest time in Practice 2.
“Today Sebastian covered a third of the mileage of his total winter (testing), and Daniel did pretty much a race distance (across the two sessions),” noted Horner.
That’s extremely encouraging for our guys and the guys back in Paris at Renault.
“Hopefully it bodes well for the weekend because the most important thing is to see the chequered flag on Sunday.
“We’ve learnt some valuable lessons today. It’s been the first real opportunity for the drivers to drive the cars uninterrupted, so it’s been a chance to explore the car and look at set-up.
“In many respects this is really where we’d like to have been at the first test but that wasn’t the case and we’ve got some ground to make up.”
Ricciardo is now eyeing a top five result in tomorrow afternoon’s qualifying session, which will take place after a 60 minute Practice 3.
“I think just firstly to make it to Q3,” he said of his Saturday goals.
“Then a top five would realistically be a really good day for us.
“We predicted that they (Mercedes) be strong coming in and they’ve proved that today,” he added.
“They’ll probably take out the front-row but if we can stop them somehow then we’ll do it.”