MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Another Australian Grand Prix, another near-miss for home hero Daniel Ricciardo.
The Red Bull driver was again denied a long-awaited podium at Albert Park on Sunday, finishing fourth behind Ferrari’s winner Sebastian Vettel, runner-up Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen.
Ricciardo qualified fifth but was furious at stewards after they slapped him with a three-place grid penalty for a minor infringement during Friday practice that forced him back to eighth for the start.
He did well to battle past Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault early on and was soon up to sixth after team mate Max Verstappen had a 360-degree spin.
Botched tire changes for both Haas cars saw them retire in quick succession, helping Ricciardo up to fourth but Ferrari’s Raikkonen proved too hard to dislodge, leaving the Western Australian frustrated again.
“I think probably the most frustrating thing was if it was a lonely fourth I would have said ‘Alright, that’s the best we can do’,” Ricciardo told reporters.
“But the pace we had (was good).
“With a few laps to go I tried (to pass Raikkonen) and we were fast.
“So that was a good thing, but also a frustrating thing because if we started further up the grid I think it could have been a different story.”
The result was Ricciardo’s second fourth place finish at Albert Park after his 2016 effort.
He finished runnerup behind Nico Rosberg in the 2014 race, his first for Red Bull, but was disqualified for a technical breach that was no fault of his own.
Verstappen finished sixth on Sunday after qualifying fourth but the Dutch wunderkind was pleased to be in the points after recovering from his big spin.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said earlier damage to the car’s rear diffuser from a corner had probably contributed to a lack of balance before the spin and that Verstappen had done “incredibly well” to manage the problem through the race.
“We are happy to score some points considering the circumstances, as soon as we had clean air the pace was good,” Verstappen said.
“Looking ahead, I think if we can have a good qualifying and clean start, then everything else should sort itself out in the race and we can be competitive.”
Editing by Alan Baldwin