Ricciardo settles for fourth at Aussie GP

Jason Phelan
AAP

A podium finish on home soil remains frustratingly elusive for Daniel Ricciardo, but the Red Bull ace could see the positives in his fourth-placed finish at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Australian started from eighth position in Sunday's 58-lap race after he copped a three-place grid penalty for speeding during a red flag in second practice.

But he thrilled local fans with a barnstorming run at the Albert Park circuit, recording the fastest lap of the race (one minute 25.945 seconds on the 54th lap) in his last-ditch bid to chase down Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen to snatch the last spot on the podium.

The fourth-placed finish equalled Ricciardo's best performance at his home grand prix, which he achieved at the 2016 race.

Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel took the chequered flag in first place for Ferrari, with pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton second in his Mercedes and Raikkonen third.

"I am happy, but it was so close," Ricciardo said.

"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'.

"But the pace we had (was good).

"With a few laps to go I tried (to pass Kimi) and we were fast ... I didn't expect to do a (quickest lap).

"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."

It didn't take long for Ricciardo to work his way through the field after the race got underway in warm conditions in Melbourne.

He passed Nico Hulkenberg's Renault on the fourth lap then moved into sixth on lap nine after teammate Max Verstappen survived a scary spin.

The Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, fourth and fifth respectively, enjoyed good speed over the weekend and were proving difficult to pass until disaster struck.

First Magnussen retired on the 22nd lap then Grosjean joined him on the 24th after two botched pit stops that gifted Ricciardo fourth spot.

The Red Bull star is confident the performance will provide an effective launch pad for his championship tilt.

"I think we're pretty close with Ferrari and our race pace is strong, which I thought would be the case," he said.

"So we just need to get a few more tenths out of qualifying and then we should be looking good.

"Being so close to the podium and getting the fastest lap is definitely an encouraging way to start the season."

While a frustrating result given the grid penalty, the 12 championship points make a welcome change of luck for Ricciardo after last year's disaster.

The Australian endured a wretched home grand prix after he crashed in qualifying, copped a grid penalty, started the race from pit lane and then retired on lap 29.