The Aussie wasted no time coming to grips with his Red Bull in the wet conditions at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit, posting consistently fast times in all three qualifying sessions.
An estimated 79,600 fans made sure the home country favourite knew who they were barracking for, before Hamilton pipped Ricciardo’s time in the dying moments of Q3.
Driver Nico Rosberg qualified the Mercedes team’s second car in position three, ahead of Kevin Magnussen with a brilliant fourth place start on debut for McLaren.
As the pre-season sandbagging came to an end, expectations of an off-the-pace Red Bull were not realised; unless you were reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel struggled through qualifying and will begin his title defence from 12th place on the grid, much to the delight of the trackside fans who erupted into applause when they learnt the German driver had missed the cut for Q3 for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix in 2012.
Pre-race favouritism for the Mercedes team has proven to be accurate, with Ricciardo’s Red Bull the only car preventing an all-Mercedes front row.
“It was good fun and I’m pretty excited,” Ricciardo said. “I heard the crowd on the cool down lap so all I can say is hopefully I hear that tomorrow.”
The rest of the top ten in qualifying for today’s Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix was made up of one Ferrari and one Force India, joined by both Toro Rossos and both Williams entries. Valtteri Bottas' Williams will drop out of the top ten with a grid penalty.
2014 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix Qualifying
- 1. Lewis Hamilton -Mercedes AMG Petronas
- 2. Daniel Ricciardo - Infiniti Red Bull Racing
- 3. Nico Rosberg - Mercedes AMG Petronas
- 4. Kevin Magnussen - McLaren Mercedes
- 5. Fernando Alonso - Scuderia Ferrari
- 6. Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
- 7. Nico Hulkenberg - Sahara Force India
- 8. Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso
- 9. Felipe Massa - Williams F1 Team
- 10. Valtteri Bottas - Williams F1 Team