However he was still annoyed by the three-place grid penalty he'd received on Friday for speeding under red flag conditions. Only Brazil (just 13 points in seven appearances) has produced a worse record than Australia (22 points in six), while his one moment in the sun, when he crossed the line second on his Red Bull debut back in 2014, was scuppered by his auto being excluded for breaching the sport's fuel flow regulations, a crestfallen Ricciardo having to hand back the second-place trophy he'd hoisted in front of a delirious crowd only hours earlier.
In 2014, he finished second in his debut race for Red Bull but was disqualified soon after for a mechanical infringement that was no fault of his own.
After finishing more than half a second ahead of 2007 world champ Raikkonen, Hamilton put his history-making lap down to raising the engine power late in the session.
The optimism comes from winter testing in Barcelona when Ricciardo consistently registered fast lap times, suggesting Red Bull may have overcome the teething issues of past year.
"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", Ricciardo told reporters.
It feels like we are in a better place than we have been the last few seasons. "It is close. We saw in long runs the pace is close, but who knows". "I think we're still the top three teams".
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"We're certainly relying on the reliability to improve, and we have made a pretty good step with that", Ricciardo said.
Daniel Ricciardo expressed frustration at both his grid penalty and one-lap performance as he prepares to line up from eighth place for his home race in Australia.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had no issue with the decision but said he had never seen Ricciardo so enraged. "You have the emerging, enormous talent of Max, and Daniel who is approaching his peak". They've done a great job. Vettel's teammate and veteran driver, Kimi Raikkonen got the closest to Lewis' time, albeit 0.664s.
But Ricciardo is not about to be distracted.
"When I jumped out of the auto I could see some damage and I also think something broke off, so we need to investigate what that was".
"Even now I don't really understand what happened - I did everything I believed I was supposed to do", a gutted Hamilton said.