Daniel Ricciardo was pleasantly surprised with his fitness levels while taking part in his first F1 race in eight months.
While the Australian was not out of F1 entirely following his McLaren departure, his Red Bull third driver role came with significantly less track time than that of a usual driver.
Limited to just sim runs and a Pirelli tyre test at Silverstone, it may have been expected that Ricciardo would have not been up to full fitness having been dropped in the AlphaTauri car just nine days before the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend.
Daniel Ricciardo expected to be ‘sore as hell’ after first race back
But, having finished a respectable 13th in his first race back, Ricciardo was pleasantly surprised with his fitness levels.
“I was stiff, but I expected more,” he told PlanetF1.com. “Because if you run every day and you don’t run for eight months, you’re going to be sore as hell.
“So I knew I’d be stiffer than normal but I was expecting like halfway through the race to be really hurting but I was actually alright.”
After the fanfare of his return, Ricciardo faces a different challenge of a wet sprint weekend in Spa. It is a circuit that has come under increased scrutiny in recent years, first with the death of Anthoine Hubert in 2019 and then Dilano van ‘t Hoff earlier this month.
Ricciardo admitted that the dangers of the sport are something every driver is aware of but not something he thinks about when he is in the car.
“I think as a race car driver, we’re aware of this from a young age. We always know that the sport is still dangerous,” he said.
“I think it’s got a lot safer over the years, but there are still some dangers. So it’s something that we’re aware of but I think we’ve just kind of learned to live with it for so many years.
“When accidents do happen, it’s a reminder, because I think over time, you tend to, I don’t think you forget, but kind of just the feeling becomes smaller or the risk you feel becomes smaller when nothing’s happened for a while.
“The truth is, as a driver, you can’t really think about it. I think as well it’s one of those sports where you can’t really be one foot in, one foot out. You need to in some ways be driving the car closer to the limit [so it] is easier or safer or more how the car’s meant to be driven.”