Ricciardo's Aussie GP curse strikes again

Laine Clark
AAP

Daniel Ricciardo can smile despite finishing seventh in practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

The famous smile appears to have been wiped off Daniel Ricciardo's face after the Red Bull star had been sensationally hit with a three-place grid penalty ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

A day before qualifying even starts for the Formula One season opener, the Australian driver known for his trademark pearly whites is already behind the eight ball after being punished by officials for going too fast during red-flag conditions at Friday's second practice session.

And in another blow that extends the five-time grand prix winner's Albert Park jinx, Ricciardo has been hit with two penalty points before the season has begun.

A red flag that halted Ricciardo's scorching lap time in Friday's second session appeared to be the biggest headache for the 28-year-old.

He looked to have threatened Mercedes pace setter Lewis Hamilton, who dominated Friday's practice before his flying lap was stopped by a red flag to clear debris on the race straight, and finished seventh fastest.

However, Ricciardo's nightmare had only just begun with stewards announcing late on Friday night they were penalising the crowd favourite for the red-flag breach.

Yet it could have been worse for the Australian.

"The stewards thoroughly reviewed the breach and found that the driver slowed significantly, such that no danger was created, and that the driver proceeded with due care," stewards said in a statement.

"The stewards therefore are imposing a lesser penalty than usual, and impose a three-grid place penalty and two penalty points."

It extends Ricciardo's Albert Park curse.

Desperate to become the first Australian to win his home grand prix, Ricciardo came closest when he finished second on Red Bull debut in 2014 only to be disqualified for a technical irregularity.

Last year, it worsened when he crashed in qualifying, started from pitlane and retired midway through the race.

His best official finish in Melbourne is fourth in 2016.

Ricciardo gave no indication of the drama to come after the second practice session.

"I was not too disappointed to see the red," Ricciardo said.

"I don't think the lap was that good, to be honest.

"We had quite a lot of understeer. It wasn't going to jump to P1 (top spot) or anything like that, so we've still got a bit of work to do.

"(But) I think tomorrow will be wet, so I don't know how relevant today will be."

Ricciardo was sixth fastest in Friday's opening session.

Off contract Ricciardo is looking to impress in his eighth F1 season after postponing extension talks with Red Bull and being linked to Mercedes and Ferrari in 2019.