Daniel Ricciardo is feeling relaxed and comfortable ahead of his Red Bull qualification debut at the Australian Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.
Ricciardo spent time at the top of the timing charts during Friday’s practice sessions before being outpaced to finish sixth fastest.
The Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton – whose car broke down on the first lap of the day – and Nico Rosberg were fastest in Friday’s practice sessions.
Like Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo spent considerable time on the track to make up for lacklustre testing of his Renault-powered car in the off-season.
Despite that, he said the additional time spent on the Albert Park street circuit had him nicely placed.
“I am still feeling really comfortable in the car… that is important when it comes to staying relaxed,” he said.
Ricciardo – handed the baton from Mark Webber both as a Red Bull Racing driver and Australia’s F1 hope – said he was able to block off attention once on the track.
“There is definitely a bit more attention, but the great thing is that as soon as I put the helmet on and get in the car it gets switched off,” he said.
Ricciardo’s record in Melbourne is underwhelming – he charted 9th in 2012 and failed to finish last year with Toro Rosso.
His best qualifying effort at Albert Park is 10th.
Another one-hour practice is followed by a three-part hour-long qualifying session on Saturday afternoon to decide the race grid order.
Any driver recording a time outside 107 per cent of the fastest qualifier will not be allowed to race; based on Lewis Hamilton’s fastest practice time of 1:29.625, this would create a cut-off of just under one minute 36 seconds.
That could threaten the viability of both Caterham drivers, who failed to record a lap time on Friday, as well as Lotus pilot Pastor Maldonado.