Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia takes a corner during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Australian GP. (Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia takes a corner during the second practice session ahead of the Formula One Australian GP. (Photo: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images)

Red Bull Racing surprised the F1 paddock by showing both good speed and reliability on the first day of practice in Australia.

and Daniel Ricciardo were fourth and sixth fastest, while the Aussie ran 64 laps – only one fewer than the maximum achieved by any driver.

“Today has been a very strong first day for us,” said team boss . “It’s been our first proper test day of the season. We’ve had a very difficult pre-season with numerous issues, which have been pretty well documented prior to us arriving in Melbourne. It was refreshing for the drivers to get plenty of laps in, and really get a first proper feel for the car. It’s been an encouraging start, but we still have an awful lot of work to do. We can still see that there is quite a gap to the Mercedes and to Ferrari, but we’re starting to realize what that gap is, and by the end of this weekend that should hopefully have a bit more clarity.”

Horner was quick to praise his team: “Morale is extremely high and we work very effectively as a team. It’s been a challenging winter to design, build and then obviously modify RB10, but the way the team has responded to the challenge has been fantastic. There is a real desire and inner strength within the team. We’ve achieved quite a bit over the past few years and that’s not by accident. As I’ve said there are always engineering solutions to engineering problems.”

Regarding prospects for the race, Horner said he was boosted by the number of laps both drivers achieved today.

“I think Sebastian today has covered a third of the mileage of his total winter, and obviously Daniel has done pretty much a race distance today, so that’s extremely encouraging for our guys and the guys back in Paris at Renault. So hopefully it bodes well for the weekend because the most important thing is to see the checkered flag on Sunday and that in itself is an enormous challenge.

“We’ve learned some valuable lessons today, an awful lot of information to look at and to be honest with you, it’s the first real opportunity that the drivers have had to drive the car properly without it being interrupted at any different part of the lap or the circuit. Really, for both drivers it’s been their first chance to really start to explore the car and for the engineers to start to look at set-up and so in many respects, this is where we would ideally like to have been at the first test but that wasn’t the case. We’ve got some ground to make up.”

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