Ricciardo sets the pace in first practice session

Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Australian Grand Prix

Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Australian Grand Prix

Raikkonen was a fraction quicker than Vettel as cooler temperatures and nightfall matched the conditions for Sunday evening's race.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was third 0.398 seconds off Ricciardo's pace.

Ricciardo expressed encouragement over Red Bull's race pace, as he prepares to start from the outside of the second row as a outcome of Hamilton's five-place grid penalty.

It all leads up to Sunday's race, which starts at 4.10pm BST and where Hamilton and Vettel will again expect to lead the pack.

Verstappen had just set set the fourth fastest time in the first round of qualifying when the accident happened.

"We definitely have got some work to do", Hamilton said.

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

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.

Verstappen is not ruling out recovering to fight for the podium and his confidence comes from the long-run pace Red Bull were able to display during the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday. The defending F1 champion had a tricky first session, locking his tires and twice taking his Mercedes too wide on corners.

Dutchman Max Verstappen was unable to clock a competitive time after suffering a gearbox problem in his Red Bull in the opening minutes of the session.

The Dutch driver got out and helped stewards wheel the auto back to the team garage.

Vettel snatched an opportunistic win from Hamilton in Formula One's season opener in Australia two weeks ago, taking advantage of a timely virtual safety auto to pit and stay ahead of the Briton who had led from pole.

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"Well I studied the data immediately when I came out of the vehicle because for me it was also a big surprise what happened", Verstappen said.

And Verstappen says the reason he was out on track was to try and solve a mapping issue that had been costing him time when trying to run in qualifying specification.

"We've got more to do overnight and in the session tomorrow to give us a auto that will allow us to have a good fight in qualifying and on Sunday".

"I'm always excited for the race".

Hamilton blitzed the competition in Melbourne qualifying, but a team strategy error saw him beaten in the race by main title rival Sebastian Vettel.

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