The United States Grand Prix will mark the much-awaited return to Formula 1 action of AlphaTauri’’s Daniel Ricciardo from injury, just in time for the fifth F1 Sprint event of the season.
Eight-time Grand Prix winner Daniel Ricciardo confirmed his return to the Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04 cockpit ahead of the US GP, held at the fully anticlockwise Circuit of The Americas (COTA) sited in Austin, Texas.
Ricciardo joined the Faenza squad on loan from Red Bull Racing at the Hungarian Grand Prix, replacing Dutch driver Nyck de Vries.
However, an unfortunate crash into the barriers at Zandvoort early in the second free practice prevented the Aussie from continuing his driving duties.
As a result of the accident, he suffered a broken metacarpal in his left hand, which required surgery on his left wrist, forcing the 34-year-old to miss the past five races to focus on his recovery.
Ahead of the US GP, the Perth-born shared: “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, so I spent the rest of that week in the UK, spending more time in the sim, and got to a point where I felt ready to go.”
Adding: “My overall fitness is fine as I kept training as much as I could, although I obviously couldn’t do much with my left hand or arm for a while.”
Throughout that time, AlphaTauri reserve driver Liam Lawson stood in, becoming the sixth driver from New Zealand to score points at the pinnacle of motorsport at the Singapore GP.
On his comeback to action, Ricciardo will meet for the first time on track, an updated AT04 challenger.
In that regard, he stressed: “The current car has moved on a bit since I last drove it, but the sim was useful to get an idea of what the changes and updates have delivered. I felt a little bit of their effect, but it’s one of those things I think, once I get on track, I’ll feel them to their full effect.”
Further commenting: “I was there in Singapore when they tried it the first time, and it was interesting to hear the feedback and comments, which were mostly positive. So, I’m excited to see what it’s like first-hand.”
The Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in the USA kicks off a triple-header running on the American continent, visiting Mexico and Brazil next.
“As for this weekend, I’ve always enjoyed Austin. It’s very unique for a modern-day circuit, and the undulations and bumps mean it’s physical. It does beat you up, but I think I like that. I like the challenge. A lot of the apexes are quite wide as well, so there are some peculiar corners, which make the track exceptional and stand out,” Ricciardo outlined.
The demanding race track spans 5.513 km (3.426 miles) across 56 laps, featuring a challenging first sector boasting an interconnected series of corners. At Turn 1, the drivers experience a massive corner elevation change, the biggest of the season.
Mario Isola, Pirelli Head of Motorsport, remarked: “I would describe COTA as a complete track, with medium to high levels of downforce. Turn 1, a left-hander, is particularly distinctive at the end of a 22-metre climb, covered within just 200 metres of track distance.
“It makes the start particularly interesting, with drivers heading in a number of different directions to find the best line. That corner leads into a flowing first sector, characterized by a series of medium to fast corners all the way to the hairpin that is Turn 11, followed by a long straight leading into the final part of the track, which is instead typified by a series of slower and 90-degree corners.”
In addition, the circuit will host for the first time an F1 Sprint event, the fifth of the season.