Ricciardo admits there’s still some “race rust” after finishing F1 sprint following injury

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Daniel Ricciardo has returned to full-time racing after an eight week absence caused by a metacarpal fracture he sustained during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend.

Liam Lawson, who subbed in for the Australian, impressed on debut and set a high standard, showing what can be achieved even with a package as underwhelming as this year’s AlphaTauri has been. This meant all eyes would be on Ricciardo heading into the weekend as fans and experts alike are eager to gauge his post-injury performance.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

Ricciardo qualified 15th for Sunday’s race, but improved to take a promising P11 in Saturday’s Sprint Shootout, later being promoted to 10th after George Russell’s penalty was applied—several positions higher than teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who failed to progress beyond SQ1.

In the sprint itself, he lost out at the start, and ultimately finished 12th. Reflecting on his performance, Ricciardo admitted that he’s still a bit rusty, but highlighted that he’s excited to be back behind the wheel.

“There was definitely some pros and cons.

“I think the pros were it was fun. I just really enjoyed being back on the grid and it’s probably always my favourite feeling on a race weekend is when like the lights, they slowly all turn on and then off for the start, that adrenaline spike it’s hard to get that in many other things in life. So that was really enjoyable.

“I think then some little bits, I don’t like saying it because I’m very experienced—but this year not so experienced—were a bit of race rust.”

He added that he’s already thinking about what he can do differently to improve in Sunday’s main race.

“At turn one, part of me is like, I should have stayed on the inside, bottled up a little earlier, and I kind of stayed there and then a couple of cars went on the outside.

“So [there were] little race reads which I probably missed a little bit. But then through the race, I felt like I picked up some lines and made some improvements. But certainly still some things to work on for tomorrow.”

Analysing his performance, he said, “The one-lap stuff felt pretty good.

“It was more race craft. I put a good move on Lance Stroll on the outside of one, but he got me into turn 12. I thought I had him covered, I didn’t.

“So there were some things where I’m like ‘ah, I should have made it harder for him’.”

Ricciardo—whose comeback to full-time racing was unexpectedly halted after just two outings by the hand injury he sustained at Zandvoort—revealed that evaluating his race fitness is the priority now, as he hasn’t completed a full race distance since the Belgian Grand Prix back in July.

“My bigger thing tomorrow is just race fitness.

“I got those two races before the [summer] break and then haven’t done anything really since.

“So it’s like Budapest all over again. For sure I expect to maybe sweat a little more than the others tomorrow, but honestly this has been better than I thought. So, no concerns for tomorrow.”