Daniel Ricciardo Returns for Simulator Training, but Is He Ready for the Qatar Grand Prix?

Published 10/03/2023, 5:15 AM EDT

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Rewind to the Dutch GP. After 24 months of agony at McLaren, followed by 6 months on the sidelines, Daniel Ricciardo was well into his comeback. Or so we thought. When Helmut Marko rang him up to offer a full-time AlphaTauri seat, Ricciardo had no reason to say no. It was his ticket back into Formula 1. It was his ticket—or at least a step toward—his fairytale ending with Red Bull. Unfortunately for him, Zandvoort was yet another snag in his seemingly never-ending F1 struggles. 

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In only his third race weekend after his return, Ricciardo got caught in a freak accident on the slopes of Zandvoort. No, it wasn’t on the dunes surrounding the track. It was on the banked Turn 3. That accident fractured his left hand, writing him off for the foreseeable future. But today is Judgment Day. 

Will Daniel Ricciardo make his return at the Qatar GP?

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After the Honey Badger broke his hand on Friday, August 25, he already had a metal plate inserted in his hand by Monday. Very Terminator-esque, don’t you think? When he started his recovery, his team predicted he’d miss the Italian and Singapore GP. Maybe even the Japanese GP. His earliest return? The Qatar GP. With F1 heading to Qatar in less than a week, today is very much Terminator 2: Judgment Day for Ricciardo and AlphaTauri.

On the F1 Nation Podcast, host Tom Clarkson said, “Something very significant is happening in Milton-Keynes because Daniel Ricciardo is driving the Red Bull simulator today to find out whether he’s going to be fit for the Qatar Grand Prix.” With former driver Pedro de la Rosa alongside him, Clarkson asked for his insights. “How realistic are these simulators in terms of him finding out whether his left hand is strong enough to do a race?” De la Rosa replied, “They are very, very realistic, especially on the power-steering level and the assistance level.”

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“So, Red Bull will be able to tune the power systems to a level where they think it’s realistic. They can go further and make it harder for Daniel to realize if he had to push harder, would he have the needed strength? That will be very clarifying if he’s capable or not to sustain the G-force levels with the strength needed for the corners of Qatar.” The Losail Circuit, with its predominantly fast corners, will be a physical challenge for any driver. Considering Ricciardo hasn’t raced for two months, he needs to be as ready as he can be. Even with the slightest of discomfort, AlphaTauri will decide to sit him out for another weekend.

When Is Daniel Ricciardo Coming Back?

Red Bull and AlphaTauri will probably make their decision either today or tomorrow. Whatever the decision, one thing is clear: AlphaTauri is in no hurry to rush Ricciardo back.

AlphaTauri wants what’s best for Ricciardo

When Ricciardo made his F1 return, he knew he was on a timer that lasted till the end of the season. He knew he had to prove he still had it to race in F1. His fracture must’ve come as an immense blow—literally and figuratively—in his chances for 2024 and beyond. Hat’s what he must’ve thought. But he doesn’t need to worry about that anymore because AlphaTauri announced he’d be racing for the team in 2024. 

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In the build-up to the Japanese GP, AlphaTauri head of trackside engineering Jonathan Eddolls talked about Ricciardo’s expected return. As reported by The Race, he said, “The recovery is going well. From our side and his side, there’s no rush to get him back too early. The worst thing would be to come back before it is properly healed and cause any issues. The simulator’s a very good representation of the car, all of the loads, etc. The final decision is more than likely going to come from him rather than from us.” Considering Liam Lawson is also doing a great job, AlphaTauri wouldn’t mind hanging on to him for as long as possible. 

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Watch This Story: Daniel Ricciardo Faces Red Bull Prodigy Threat in F1 Return

Who would you like to watch drive the AlphaTauri in Qatar? Daniel Ricciardo or Liam Lawson?

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

757Articles

One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare

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