After half a season on the sidelines, Ricciardo was sensationally named as the replacement for Nyck de Vries only 10 races into the 2023 season.
The Dutchman had been under pressure for some time with Red Bull finally swinging its axe on the 28-year-old in the days following the British Grand Prix.
That coincided with Ricciardo climbing into the Red Bull RB19 and, by all accounts, recording some impressive lap times.
It was final confirmation for the likes of Christian Horner and Helmut Marko that the Australian still had what it took and supported the development he'd made in the Red Bull simulator during the opening months of the year.
And so, in Budapest, Ricciardo was reunited with the team for whom he drove on his rise to F1 stardom when it was known as Toro Rosso.
It was a case of trial by fire; in the Red Bull programme there is nowhere to hide, and no sacred cows. It's brutal, unforgiving, and very rarely offers more than a first chance. This is Ricciardo's second.
Instead, the simplest measure of Ricciardo's progress was the comparison to team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.
The Japanese driver has been widely considered as one of the sport's top performers in 2023, even if results haven't reflected that (refer above).
He offered a high bar to clear, but was also a useful barometer for Ricciardo upon his return.
That was complicated on Friday with rain in the early minutes of Free Practice 1. Running was also limited in Free Practice 2 because of the ‘alternate tyre allocation' rules that were trialled in Hungary – drivers had only 11 sets instead of 13.
That meant heading into Saturday Ricciardo still knew little about the car he'd driven for the first time only a day earlier.
Yet in that final hour of practice, he went three-tenths clear of Tsunoda and managed so with a floor damaged to the point of being replaced ahead of qualifying.
It was an eye-catching performance but had to be taken with a grain of salt; it was practice and teams were running different programmes – even from one side of the garage to another.
And so we took notice but tempered our expectations, accepting the fact Ricciardo would likely be one of the early fallers in the three-part qualifying session that followed.
Only he wasn't. He scraped through – only just, but the margin is irrelevant. He was 0.01s faster than Tsunoda in a meaningful session when direct comparisons can be drawn.
He ended up qualifying 13th, five places up from his team-mate in a car he admits he's still not completely at one with – he suggested to media, including Speedcafe, that he was only at 98 percent of the car's potential.
However, it's a single session and caution must be exercised when reading into it. Did Ricciardo excel, or did Tsunoda under-deliver?
We needed to wait for the race for a better indication, but even that left us with more questions than answers.
Ricciardo was nerfed by Zhou Guanyu at Turn 1, the meat in a sandwich that ultimately saw both Alpines retire and left the Scuderia AlphaTauri driver 18th as the field streamed down the hill for the first time.
His hard tyre run was completed in dirty air too, and with the Scuderia AlphaTauri not boasting the top-line speed of others, overtaking around the twisty Hungaroring became nearly impossible.
And so, the pit wall and Ricciardo rolled the dice, stopping for a second set of medium tyres for a mammoth 41-lap stint to the flag.
It was a bold call but one that leveraged the strong undercut influence to gain track position and played a large part in Ricciardo's 13th-place finish at the flag.
But the result was more than just a good strategy call; it had to be executed, which meant protecting the tyres while maintaining competitive pace.
That's something Ricciardo was able to do, and post-race he suggested that without the drama at the opening corner he could well have scored points.
Had that been the case, this poll would be rather different.
But even still, he finished ahead of Tsunoda in a race that saw two Alpines retire – cars that realistically one would expect to finish ahead of Scuderia AlphaTauri.
On corrected order, then, Ricciardo was effectively 15th in a full field and suggests he could have been 11th, ahead of one Aston Martin.
That's hypothetical, of course, but it puts into context Ricciardo's performance.
The question is, was it a successful return, did it simply meet expectations or, in your opinion, did he fail to deliver?
Cast your vote below.