Daniel Ricciardo pipped by RB teammate Yuki Tsunoda in first practice of Australian Grand Prix

Aaron Kirby
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Alex Albon triggers a red flag at Albert Park in practice.

Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Yuki Tsunoda have shown promising pace in the opening sessions of the Australian Grand Prix as the pair hunt for team RB’s first points of the season at Albert Park.

The big boys hit the track for Practise on Friday as West Australian Ricciardo, with new Australian-inspired art adorning his helmet, got his first look at the Melbourne circuit since 2022.

And it didn’t take long for the first major shunt of the weekend, with Williams driver Alex Albon obliterating the right front end of his car at turn seven, just one corner further on from his race-ending crash at the event last year, 40 minutes into Practice 1.

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The car was left in disarray with Williams engineers unable to get the vehicle up for the second session and potentially needing to fly in a brand new chassis for Saturday.

Alex Albon crashes during practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday.
Alex Albon crashes during practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday. Credit: Fox Sports
Alex Albon crashes during practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday.
Alex Albon crashes during practice at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Friday. Credit: Fox Sports

If they can’t repair the car they could consider ruling their second driver, Logan Sargeant, out of the weekend and subbing Albon into his vehicle.

Ricciardo hit the middle of the pack with his early laps of the morning running before jumping sixth fastest in his second stint.

Tsunoda, from Japan, showed even more pace as the track rubbered up, clocking the second fastest time just before Albon triggered a red flag, smashing into the concrete barriers.

It took just over 10 minutes for the car and debris field to be cleared away.

After reporting brake issues early, Mercedes made the most of the final minutes of the opening session as reigning world champion Max Verstappen also put in some late laps, taking to the team radio to complain of the car bottoming out nastily in multiple corners.

Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive.
Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive. Credit: Peter Fox/Getty Images

Melbourne-born McLaren driver Oscar Piastri recorded a time in the middle of the pack as the papaya ran their program, tinkering with the car ahead of qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

The Aussie, in his second season of Formula One, comes into his home race with a four-point advantage on English teammate Lando Norris after a superb start to the campaign in Bahrain and Jeddah.

“Last year (in Melbourne) was also a very difficult start to the year (on the track for McLaren),” McLaren boss Zak Brown said on Friday.

“In addition to the pressure of being a rookie, and coming to your first home-town race, you’re also in a race car that’s not that strong.

“He’s got a much better race car that he’s sitting in (this year), so he’s definitely enjoying it and (it’s) nice to see him mature.

“He’s already a mature young man, but you can definitely see a year on he’s got a higher level of confidence because he knows what to expect, and I think that will just drive even better performances with the helmet on.”

Norris ended the first practice session with the fastest time (1:18.564) in great signs for McLaren as Verstappen and Mercedes’ George Russell rounded out the top three.

Carlos Sainz made it through his first session since appendix surgery but looked very sore getting out of the Ferrari.

Ricciardo made a flying start in Free Practice 2, getting under the one-minute twenty mark and finished the session in 12th.

But as the teams pulled out the red tyres, Ferrari took control.

Only Verstappen could split Charles LeClerc and Sainz as Aston Martin showed they were the third fastest team, despite a few detours into the weeds, on the opening day.

Lewis Hamilton struggled to impress and had a few squirmy moments with understeer.

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