Daniel Ricciardo dodges injury excuse after underwhelming US GP qualy return

Michelle Foster
AlphaTauri driver Daniel Ricciardo waves to the fans after qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo waves to the crowd.

Daniel Ricciardo has denied his hand injury had anything to do with his P15 in qualifying for the United States Grand Prix, adamant it is “good”.

Having missed five Grand Prix starts after breaking his hand in second practice at the Zandvoort circuit, Ricciardo returned to the cockpit of his AT04 on Friday at the Circuit of The Americas.

It, however, wasn’t quite the homecoming he had wished for.

Daniel Ricciardo fell foul of COTA’s track limits

On a Sprint weekend Friday, the Honey Badger finished qualifying down in 15th place, three-tenths slower than his AlphaTauri team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.

He wasn’t helped in his efforts to qualify higher by a track limit violation that cost him his fastest lap time.

But the good news is at least when it comes to his hand, that’s all good.

“The result has nothing to do with the hand, so that’s a positive,” he told Speedcafe.

“Look, there’s probably adrenaline and stuff as well but that’s why I didn’t go to Qatar. I wanted to just get on the sim and do four days, pretty much in a row.

“I just told them (the team) ‘Leave me in the car, I’ll drive until I’m tired or sore’, so I know it’s good, and I’m thankful for that.

“I wish the result was better but the hand’s good.”

Overall the Aussie is feeling good despite this being only his fourth weekend back on the grid after his eight-month hiatus, and a hot weekend at that.

“I’ve only had two races of race fitness but I was pretty good,” said Ricciardo. “Obviously, it’s hot, it’s a physical track.

“I’ve been thrown in the deep end in a way, but I feel like I got through it pretty well.

“I will try and work on some things overnight, but you can’t change the cars. They’re in parc fermé but we can still learn.”

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Ricciardo’s first outing in the updated AT04

Friday’s running marked Ricciardo’s first day on track in the updated AT04 with AlphaTauri having introduced a significant upgrade at the Singapore Grand Prix.

He says the car has definitely improved but that it is still lacking in downforce.

“Definitely this morning (in practice), I felt I got up to speed,” said Ricciardo. “In the first couple of laps, I was there and feeling confident. That was a sign the car has improved.

“It was hard with only one session, but through qualifying, I felt like it got to a point where the harder I pushed or the faster I tried to go, it just wouldn’t quite hang on anymore. I felt like we did plateau a little bit.

“I feel like we’ve got to a place where we’re still trying to look for more in the car when we really lean on it.

“It’s obviously very high speed this circuit, especially the first sector, and with these temperatures, putting a lot of energy through the tyres, we probably still need some more downforce to keep the car sticking.

“In a way, of course, I don’t know the car incredibly well yet, so I think updates or not, there’s still a lot for me to just get out there and drive and see what happens.

“But it was fine. I don’t really blame any of the performance on my absence, just maybe a little bit more from a set-up point of view, just knowing where the car was going to be in quali once we really started pushing on it.”

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