MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo was left apologising to the Red Bull garage after his hopes of becoming the Australian Grand Prix’s first home winner spun out during qualifying on Saturday.
The affable 27-year-old will start 10th on the grid after he skidded at turn 14, ended up in the gravel and hit a barrier before his car was towed from the track.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton took pole ahead of Ferrari’s second-placed Sebastian Vettel.
Australia has waited in vain for a local champion but it would require a good dose of luck and something truly special from Ricciardo for the drought to end on Sunday.
“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” he said.
”But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen.
”So let’s say I‘m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.
“I feel for the mechanics, because they’ve had a long week and now they’ve got a long night ahead of them.”
Ricciardo’s teenage team mate Max Verstappen qualified fifth but was scarcely more pleased, with his fastest lap more than a second slower than pole-sitter Hamilton‘s.
Neither of the Red Bull drivers were enamoured with the performance of their cars during Friday practice and Verstappen complained his was still far from optimal after qualifying.
“It’s been a bit of a tough weekend in general, I haven’t done as much running as I would have liked,” he said.
”The car is better balanced now but it is clear to see we still have to gain a bit.
”It’s not just in power; we built a car that is efficient on the straights but it means we lose a bit of grip in cornering.
”I am not disappointed as I think this is about where we expected to be at race one.
“Tomorrow it is important for me to have a quick and clean start and let the guys in front battle it out.”
Editing by Sudipto Ganguly