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Ricciardo admits to “race rust” on F1 return from injury

Daniel Ricciardo admits he was compromised by “race rust” when he made his return to competition in Saturday’s Formula 1 sprint at the United States Grand Prix.

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04

Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04

Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

The Australian qualified his AlphaTauri an encouraging 11th for his first event since he injured his hand in a practice crash at the Dutch GP, and he eventually started 10th after George Russell was penalised.

However, he was shuffled down two places at the start and remained in 12th place for the duration.

"I would say there were definitely some pros and cons,” he said when asked by Autosport about his return.

“I think the pros were it was fun, I just really enjoyed being back on the grid. It's probably always my favourite feeling on a race weekend, when like the lights 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 don't like saying it because I'm very experienced, but this year not so experienced. So a bit of race rust, I think.

“At Turn 1 part of me was like I should have seen the inside bottle up a little earlier, and I kind of stayed there, and then a couple cars went on the outside.

“So little kind of 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."

Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia AlphaTauri, waves to fans

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Daniel Ricciardo, Scuderia AlphaTauri, waves to fans

He added: "I was definitely happy with my qualifying today compared to yesterday, I think I certainly found a little bit more in myself. But the inside joke is we keep getting P11.

“Obviously Q3 is a big target for us, and as happy as I was with my lap today we were still P11. I'm happy with the improvements I made today.

"It was just more kind of racecraft, like I put on a good move on Stroll on the outside of one, but he got me into Turn 12. I thought I had him covered, I didn't so there was like some things there I'm like, ah, I should have made it harder for him."

Ricciardo said he had no issues with his hand over the course of the 19-lap sprint.

"To be honest, it's been okay, today was fine,” he said. “I think probably my biggest thing tomorrow is just some race fitness. Obviously, I got those two races before the break. And then haven't done anything really since!

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“So it's kind of like Budapest all over again. So for sure, I expect to maybe sweat a little more than the others tomorrow. But honestly, this has been I want to say better than I thought, so yeah, no concerns for that tomorrow."

Asked if it was the right call to miss Qatar and delay his return, he said: "Yeah, definitely. I think that extra break gave me the confidence to push, to hit a kerb.

“My biggest fear was coming back and making excuses. And then the team's upset, I'm upset. No one wins. So I'm happy with the approach."

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