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At the sixth attempt, Ricciardo chases first home F1 podium in Australia

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Daniel Ricciardo will venture to next weekend’s Australian Grand Prix looking to end his mixed track record on home soil and score his first official Formula 1 podium finish in Melbourne.

Ricciardo took over the mantle as being Australia’s leading F1 driver at the end of 2013 when compatriot Mark Webber retired from racing, freeing up a seat at Red Bull.

Ricciardo slotted into the role for 2014 and made an immediate impact, crossing the line second in his first race for the team in Australia.

The result sent the home crowd into raptures and Ricciardo was upheld as a national hero, only for the glory to be met with a bitter end when the stewards disqualified the Red Bull driver over a fuel-flow irregularity.

Ricciardo finished sixth in 2015 and fourth last year, once again missing out on a maiden podium at Albert Park, and now heads into his sixth home grand prix looking to break that duck.

Pre-season testing saw Red Bull impress but not overawe the paddock, appearing to run as the third-fastest team behind Ferrari and Mercedes.

However, with technical chief Adrian Newey getting his mojo back for 2017 and a raft of updates for the RB13 car in the pipeline, Ricciardo could yet be in the mix to finally score his first home podium.

“It’s always good to be back on home soil and enjoy a bit of sunshine after winter testing,” Ricciardo said in Red Bull’s race preview.

“My home race is awesome in so many ways but it’s also super busy and full on, the week for me starts on Monday and doesn’t stop until Sunday night.

“It’s nice that there’s so much media attention at the start of the season and everyone is super excited to see how I go. I try and attend as many events as I can but I’m still there to do a job.

“We get a pretty big greeting from everyone when we arrive at track each morning, the fans are so enthusiastic!

“This year they have named a grandstand after me, the Ricciardo Premium Grandstand with views of turns three, four and five, which is pretty cool. It’s another bit of motivation for me to do well and I will of course give the fans a wave. It’s great to have such positive support and I’ve heard the tickets sold out pretty quickly for the stand.

“I will definitely embrace the weekend, have some fun with it and try and give the fans a reason to celebrate on Sunday.”

As well as wanting to break his own home duck, Ricciardo will also be looking to end a run of Australian-less podiums in the Australian Grand Prix that stretches back as far as the world championship races Down Under.

The new F1 season kicks off on March 26, with every session of the Australian Grand Prix live across NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”