Daniel Ricciardo still has “a lot of questions to be answered' after finishing 13th in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Stepping into the Scuderia AlphaTauri at short notice, Ricciardo had limited practice to get up to speed in the car.
Friday saw curtailed running due to rain and he picked up for damage in final practice after running over a kerb.
Despite those setbacks, he showed promising pace in qualifying, bettering team-mate Yuki Tsunoda by five places.
The race, however, did not go to plan, with the eight-time race winner embroiled in the opening corner melee.
It also dropped Ricciardo to the back of the pack.
“We got a hit from behind into Turn 1, so that put me at the tail of the field,” he explained.
“Then I was just stuck in a bit of a train with [Logan] Sargeant and someone else.
“In dirty air, even with these new cars, this circuit is definitely a hard one to follow.”
Ricciardo was released when those ahead pitted, swapping onto the hard compound tyres for a comparatively short stint.
His opening stop came later than those he had been racing, leaving him with free air in the laps before his own stop.
However, he encountered traffic before his second stop, which encouraged the team to fit a set of mediums for a 41-lap run to the flag.
That left him to run his own race, which afforded an opportunity to learn more about the Scuderia AlphaTauri AT04.
“It was just trying to do an alternate strategy,” Ricciardo reasoned of his Hungarian GP race plan.
“I actually felt good with the tyres; they lose grip quite early with just how hot the temperature is, but then I felt I could manage it.
“That's why I was confident to also take a punt on the medium, and we went from there.
“So other than really Turn 1, obviously not my doing, I thought it was a really good race.
“There was a little bit of damage on the back of the diffuser,” he added, “but the team said it was pretty much okay.
“It felt okay, so I'd love to say I could have gone a second quicker, but I think the car was more or less fine.”
Ricciardo ended the race a lap down in 13th, and while not a headline result in its own right, it is a valuable one.
Were it not for the contretemps at the opening corner, he suggests points were a possibility.
“Still a lot of questions to be answered,” Ricciardo admitted.
“So just having the pace, having the clear air, and you know, making a few mistakes, learning from those – knowing what the car likes, what it doesn't, I think I learned a lot from the race.
“And honestly, just coming into it physically, not doing a race distance in eight months, especially around here, it's one of the tougher ones – that's one of the biggest smiles I have right now, [I] actually felt really good out there.
“I think if we had stayed ahead, and held position at the start, I believe we could have really fought for a points finish,” he added, noting Lance Stroll finishing 10th despite starting one spot behind Ricciardo on the grid.
The Hungarian GP was a promising return for Ricciardo, beating Tsunoda on debut after also out-qualifying his team-mate.
The 34-year-old will not have to wait long for his next outing, with the Belgian Grand Prix starting on Friday.