After missing five races through injury, Daniel Ricciardo is expected to return this weekend at the United States Grand Prix; however, he’s supposedly “still struggling” in the simulator.
Ricciardo hasn’t featured for AlphaTauri since fracturing a metacarpal in his left hand following a crash during Free Practice 2 at the Dutch Grand Prix, with Red Bull reserve driver Liam Lawson having replaced him ever since.
The Australian underwent surgery in Barcelona, with his recovery having certainly taken longer than initially expected.
He has been in the paddock at the last few races but hasn’t been in the cockpit, until a demo run appearance for Red Bull in Nashville last weekend.
Ricciardo drove Red Bull’s RB7 in Nashville, convincing many that he’s ready to return.
However, according to 2016 World Champion Nico Rosberg, Ricciardo is still having issues completing a “full race distance” in the simulator, something the German was told by AlphaTauri team principal Franz Tost.
“First of all Franz Tost on the grid in Qatar told me that Daniel was still struggling in the simulator, one week ago, with his wrist to do a full race distance,” Rosberg said on the Sky Sports F1 podcast.
“So let’s see, I think it won’t be easy for him to come back and be physically 100%.”
The Circuit of the Americas (COTA) is by far a not ideal location to return from a hand injury, given the constant change of direction in the opening sector in particular.
With the exception of the incredibly long main straight, there is very little time to rest for the drivers at COTA, something which won’t go in Ricciardo’s favour.
As well as that, the US Grand Prix is also a sprint weekend, meaning a lot of the driving will be more intense than usual.
Rosberg is hopeful that Ricciardo can do well this weekend but he noted how braking will also put huge stress on his hand and wrist.
“I wish him the best and I hope he makes it because it’s so physical driving these cars. In terms of risks, it’s not just steering. It’s also when you’re braking,” Rosberg added.
“When you’re braking, you’re pushing against the steering wheel a lot because you can’t allow your body to just flop forward when you’re braking into the seatbelt. You need to push against and steer.
“So there’s incredible forces on the wrist. I wish that he manages to come back and feel fit to race, obviously. And then the five races he needs to do now.
“I don’t think there’s such a high expectation on him now, because he’s got the drive for next year and I think just needs to be solid.”