Renault's new Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo speaks during the 2019 Renault Formula One team season launch at Whiteways Technical Centre in Enstone, northwest of Oxford, on February 12, 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
Renault's new Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo speaks during the 2019 Renault Formula One team season launch at Whiteways Technical Centre in Enstone, northwest of Oxford, on February 12, 2019. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

Dan spills on secret romance rumour

Aussie F1 ace Daniel Ricciardo has put to bed rumours he and Perth model Jessica Gomes are an item after gossip on the 29-year-old's love life spread like wildfire last year.

A report in the Herald Sun in December claimed the Renault driver had been dating fashion Gomes for several weeks. The pair reportedly tried to keep their budding romance out of the spotlight but speculation refused to die down.

Ricciardo squashed the rumours to a pulp on Friday after months of being probed by fans and mates alike.

"It's funny,'' he told the Herald Sun. "When I got home a few of my mates sent me a message saying, 'mate, you're on the front page of the paper'.

"I was like: 'What for? What have I done this time? What have I done wrong?'

"And they were like, 'apparently you're dating a model'. And I was like, 'oh gosh'. So I don't know where that came from.''

The Renault star hinted he was frustrated with rumours appearing out of thin air but was glad it was a positive story.

"At least it was a positive news story. I'm trying to see the bright side. Even though it was taken out of nothing, at least it was positive.''

Ricciardo's comments came after revealing his new Renault team has made decent progress, while recognising they still have work to do ahead of the new campaign starting this month.

With teams packing up and heading home before the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17, Ricciardo finished eighth fastest around the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit on Friday with a best lap time of one minute 17.114 seconds.

Rumours about Ricciardo dating Jessica Gomes were ‘taken out of nothing’.
Rumours about Ricciardo dating Jessica Gomes were ‘taken out of nothing’.

The 29-year-old, who joined Renault from Red Bull at the end of last season, banked 452 laps over two-weeks of testing, with his teammate Nico Hulkenberg - who was fourth fastest on Friday in 1:16.843 - completing 509.

"It's been a pretty good week and we've done a decent amount of laps with some consistent running," Ricciardo told the official Renault website. "It will take some time to catch the front teams but that is not what we expected to happen at winter testing and we are very realistic about that. At the same time, it's impossible to make accurate performance predictions.

"We still have work to do and things to improve on and that's what we'll focus on now. We will dissect the data we've harnessed over the past days back at the factory.

"We are making progress but the bigger steps will happen gradually going forward. I'm heading to Melbourne feeling that I belong here and I just want to go racing now."

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap for Ferrari on Friday but five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton kept Mercedes on the pace, despite suggesting his rival had a half second advantage.

Vettel's best effort of 1:16.221 in the morning session was faster than anyone else went in Spain but Hamilton ended the finalday only 0.003 slower on the same C5 tyres.

Hamilton, who has won four of the last five championships in a V6 turbo hybrid era that Mercedes have dominated, said: "It's OK. We don't mind the challenge, it just means we have to work harder. I'm not worried or disappointed or anything." Hamilton'sFinnish teammate Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in 1:16.561 - also on C5 rubber - as Mercedes turned their focus to single-lappace after concentrating on longer runs.

After Hulkenberg came Russian Daniil Kvyat in the Honda-powered Toro Rosso and McLaren's Carlos Sainz.

Vettel's day ended two hours early when he reported an electrical issue - their third glitch in as many days - after he had done 110 laps.

A gearbox problem meant Red Bull's Max Verstappen did a mere 29 laps after his mechanics had worked through the night to finish repairs to the car after teammate Pierre Gasly's crash on Thursday.

- with AAP