Daniel Ricciardo has expressed a feeling of déjà vu over the course of this weekend's United States Grand Prix.
Ricciardo is making his second F1 comeback this season, with the Australian initially replacing the axed Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri for the final two races before the summer break in Hungary and Belgium.
At the following event in the Netherlands, Ricciardo broke a bone in his left hand in seven places, resulting in him missing the next five races in recovery before finally returning at the Circuit of the Americas.
Following a disappointing Friday, in which Ricciardo qualified 15th for the grand prix, the 34-year-old enjoyed a far stronger Saturday, notably missing out on a place in the top 10 of the sprint shootout by 0.031secs.
After 19 laps and the most rigorous on-track test of his hand so far, he declared it “okay”, adding: “Probably my biggest thing (for the grand prix) is just some race fitness.
“I got those two races before the break, and then I haven't done anything since, so it's kind of like Budapest all over again.
“For sure, I expect to maybe sweat a little more than the others, but honestly, this has been…I want to say better than I thought, so no concerns for (the race).”
Ricciardo also feels he has some additional rust to shake off going into the 56-lap event given what he experienced in the sprint.
“I would say there were definitely some pros and cons,” assessed Ricciardo.
“A pro was that it was fun. I just really enjoyed being back on the grid.
“Probably my favourite feeling on a race weekend is when the lights slowly all turn on and then go off for the start. It gives you that adrenaline spike which is hard to get in many other things in life, so that was really enjoyable.
“But then – I don't like saying it because I'm very experienced, but this year not so experienced – there were little bits of race rust.
“Like Turn 1 (on the opening lap), I should have seen the inside bottle up a little earlier, but I kind of stayed there and a couple of cars went on the outside.
“So there were little race reads which I probably missed a little bit, but then through the race, I felt like I picked up some lines and made some improvements, so certainly still some things to work on (for the GP).”
Ricciardo at least now knows he made the right call in skipping the last race in Qatar as there was an outside chance he would have been ready, only to make a call after a simulator session not to head to Doha.
“That extra break gave me the confidence to push, to hit a kerb,” said Ricciardo.
“My biggest fear was coming back and making excuses, and then the team's upset, I'm upset, and no one wins, so I'm happy with the approach.”