Hand injured and withdrawn from the last two Grands Prix, Ricciardo saw his return to F1 interrupted. However, the Australian driver, without a steering wheel since the end of 2022, convinced during the two races contested with AlphaTauri before the summer break.
Lhe Daniel Ricciardo turned into a grimace of pain on Friday, August 25, during the second free practice session for the Dutch Grand Prix, as the drivers returned to the track after a three-week break. A few moments earlier, Oscar Piastri, his compatriot and successor at McLaren, made a mistake, hitting the guardrails. “I was already in the third corner when I saw Piastri in the barriers, says Ricciardo.
Either I hit him or I aimed at the wall. I chose the wall. I didn’t have enough time to remove my hands, and I suffered a violent steering wheel kickback. It’s really bad luck ! I’m very frustrated, because I was so excited to return to competition after the summer break. ” The x-ray taken the same day revealed a fracture of a metacarpal of the left hand. After a quick appearance the same evening in the paddock with his hand in a cast, Ricciardo flew to Barcelona to be operated on on Sunday by Professor Mir, well known to MotoGP riders, and who had also repaired Lance Stroll’s broken wrists. this winter. Metal plates were placed to realign the bones. The orthopedic surgeons we consulted cite a healing time of approximately six weeks for a normal person. This is far too long in the mind of Daniel Ricciardo who, after the operation, was aiming for a return for next week’s Singapore GP. It would be a huge challenge, because it is the most physical circuit of the season, set in a city, with a lot of corners, in stifling heat and humidity. The following week, the Japanese Grand Prix seemed just as complex with its series of fast curves and a lot of G forces to absorb. While waiting for Ricciardo to return, the young Liam Lawson, a 21-year-old New Zealander, new to F1, replaces him. We can perfectly imagine the frustration of Daniel Ricciardo who was engaged in a reconquest mission. Discarded by McLaren finally last season after two disappointing years, despite an incredible victory at Monza in 2021, the 34-year-old Australian driver did not have a starting wheel this year. He then accepted the position of reserve driver at Red Bull, the team which allowed him to win seven races between 2014 and 2018. Convincing in the simulator, then during a test session at the start of the summer with the car which dominates the season, he persuades his bosses to give him another chance. He was then promoted to AlphaTauri, the other team owned by Red Bull, replacing the disappointing Nyck de Vries. At the wheel of the worst car in the field, last in the constructors’ championship, Ricciardo finished 13th in Hungary then 16th in Belgium, before the summer break. “Logically, the team could have waited until the start of the school year to put me in the car. But ultimately, it was very valuable to compete in two races, then to have several weeks to think about it and analyze everything, recognizes the Australian. I couldn’t have asked for anything more in Hungary. I was very satisfied with my integration and my performance. Then, in Belgium, I exceeded the track limits in qualifying, my time was canceled, and I had to start last. The race was satisfactory, I’m happy with my return. ” Christian Horner, the director of the Red Bull team, then shared his enthusiasm: “Daniel has achieved the objectives set for his return. He showed a good level of performance, and he brings AlphaTauri a lot of experience to develop their car in the right direction.”
REDBULL CONTENT POOL
Unfortunately, his injury breaks the positive momentum of this return. However, Daniel Ricciardo seems experienced and psychologically strong enough to overcome this ordeal. His difficult seasons and his ouster from McLaren were probably more mentally painful at first, before hardening him. “The first six months of 2023 without competition allowed me to mature, to grow, to think, in order to put things back in order. Today, I reached the level I was aiming for in terms of happiness, pleasure, driving and motivation. I found all of this, although I had probably lost it a little. In the last two years, the sky had darkened, I didn’t necessarily feel very well. I want to drive for several more years, although I wasn’t sure six months ago. I have regained the energy of my youth, all my motivation, and I plan to ride for a long time. However, from a performance point of view, I have to think race by race, and not project myself too far ahead. ”
With his injury, Daniel Ricciardo will have fewer Grands Prix between now and the end of the year to prove that he is back to his best and deserves a full-time drive next season at AlphaTauri.
“I am starting a second career, I am very determined, he says. I don’t put any pressure on myself, but I have a very specific goal to achieve.” An ambitious, assumed objective, and known to everyone in the Red Bull clan. “We are loaning Ricciardo to AlphaTauri until the end of the season, explains Horner. Nothing has been decided regarding him for 2024. For our part at Red Bull, Verstappen and Pérez will still be our drivers next year. I know Ricciardo is aiming for one of our seats for 2025. He thinks driving with AlphaTauri is his best chance of achieving that. ” Before getting this wheel in the world champion team, Ricciardo must make a successful return after his injury, without rushing, to find his big smile again.
Pagenaud still out
The Indycar season ends this Sunday at Laguna Seca in California without Simon Pagenaud.
The Frenchman has not returned to the wheel of his car since his violent accident during testing at Mid-Ohio on June 30. “Following the accident, I still have post-concussion symptoms which I am working on, but this type of recovery varies depending on the individual. I would like to pilot, but the accident was very violent and forces me to concentrate on my health. ” Pagenaud will therefore have missed the last nine races of the season.
In endurance, the Peugeot team is in Japan this weekend for the penultimate race of the season with a reshuffled crew on car 94. Nico Müller, injured in his collarbone during training, is replaced at Fuji by Stoffel Vandoorne, 31 years old, former Formula 1 driver (41 GPs with McLaren). The Belgian will team up with Duval and Menezes.
Peugeot hopes to confirm the podium obtained at Monza during the previous round, before closing the season in Bahrain on November 4.
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