Ricciardo handed grid penalty for gearbox change

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was scratched from the Australian Grand Prix (0500 GMT) after his auto suffered a reliability problem and failed to line up on the grid.

Verstappen was fifth on the day nearly half a minute behind race victor Sebastian Vettel.

In 2014, Ricciardo crossed the line second behind Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg in Melbourne, only to be disqualified for breaching fuel rules.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said it appeared Ricciardo's vehicle suffered engine failure.

"It's a long way ahead, but for now, we're over the moon", Vettel said after the trophy presentation.

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"It was similar in testing, it was quite tricky as well to find a good balance and yeah we definitely need to work on that".

"Just a long day and happy to move on. I was a bit too nervous", the four-time world champion admitted.

Then his vehicle came to a stop on the warm-up lap shortly before the race and he got out of the auto shaking his head.

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"Mercedes sure is quick but it's more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he's more in the group of Ferrari".

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After Vettel recorded three wins in 2015, the Ferraris had fallen off the pace in the second half of 2016. We've clearly had the third fastest vehicle [in Australia], we want to move closer to the cars ahead over the next couple of races.

A crash in final qualifying late on Saturday had already dropped Ricciardo to 10th place on the grid, before the Red Bull team was forced to replace the car's gearbox, incurring a five-place penalty.

The Australian had a wretched home grand prix: he crashed in qualifying; copped a grid penalty; started the race from pit lane; then his vehicle stopped on lap 29 of the 58-lap race.

The local hope began Sunday's season-opening race at Albert Park some two laps after the rest of the field - and from pit lane, rather than the grid. "Let's go to China (for the second race)".

"It was still valuable track time". "Don't get me wrong it's been fun but I feel bad for the fans".

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However, prior to the race, the team spotted a problem with a gearbox sensor and were faced a race against time to get Ricciardo's auto to the grid.

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