The return of Daniel Ricciardo to the grid in Texas was met with enthusiasm, but the challenges of his comeback were evident despite the signature cowboy hat.
Ricciardo had been on the sidelines for the past four rounds, nursing a broken wrist sustained in a practice crash at the Dutch Grand Prix in August.
His return to the F1 car took place earlier this week during a Red Bull promotional event in Nashville, and he resumed his position on the grid in practice on Friday.
Expressing his relief at being back, Ricciardo spoke about his improved hand and the necessary assessment of its condition, stating, “It’s good to be back. My hand is much better, and the simulator was a useful way of assessing it.
“I tried it out in the week before Qatar, but I didn’t feel it was at full potential.”
Ricciardo also shared his frustration at watching the past few races from the sidelines, having eagerly anticipated his return to racing.
He emphasised that the period without racing seemed to pass quickly.
Despite his cheerful demeanour and iconic cowboy hat, it was clear that Ricciardo’s return to the F1 grid wouldn’t be without its challenges.
The United States Grand Prix featured a sprint race on Saturday, leaving Ricciardo with just one practice session before qualifying.
In qualifying, Ricciardo finished in a disappointing 15th place, trailing his teammate Yuki Tsunoda by three-tenths, who secured the 11th position.
Ricciardo expressed his desire for more time to adapt to the car and make improvements, saying, “There’s a few things for sure I would’ve liked to have got out of the car, but it’s hard to know how much we can do in an hour and then go straight into qualifying.”
He added, “But I’d love more, I feel like we can give more.
“There was nothing else holding me back today. It was trying to find the feeling in the car and the set-up.
“As the track started to ramp up, we started to plateau a little bit.”