Daniel Ricciardo insists he is at full strength to resume his F1 comeback after being forced to hit the “pause” button.
Following a five grands prix absence after breaking a bone in his left hand, Ricciardo returns for this weekend's United States Grand Prix where he claims he is ready to be ‘beat up' by Austin's Circuit of the Americas.
Ricciardo has spent almost two months on the sidelines recovering from a multiple break of the metacarpal of the little finger sustained in a crash during practice for the Dutch GP, the third event of his F1 return after replacing the sacked Nyck de Vries.
The additional time off has allowed the 34-year-old Australian to complete his recovery in time for one of his favourite events on the F1 calendar.
“It's good to be back,” exclaimed Ricciardo. “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.
“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.”
In his absence, 21-year-old New Zealander Liam Lawson performed admirably, and although he will have to content himself with a continuation of his reserve role for next season, the suggestion is he will be back in F1 in 2025.
Conceding to the past few races watching from the sidelines as being “definitely frustrating”, Ricciardo added: “I'd gotten myself to a place where I was so ready to go again and race.
“Then I did two events and had to hit ‘pause' again, but actually, the time without racing went quite quickly.
“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.
“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.”
That opportunity will come this weekend around COTA, a venue Ricciardo has savoured in the past, although he is aware of the test it poses given its imposing nature.
“I've always enjoyed Austin,” remarked Ricciardo.
“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.”