Daniel Ricciardo says his transition back into the cockpit has been seamless despite a disrupted first day of practice at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Ricciardo has returned to the grid full-time replacing Nyck de Vries, who was axed just 10 races into his rookie season.
The Australian got the call-up just over one week ago, after the British Grand Prix, and visited the factory in Faenza last Friday to start the process of integrating himself into the team.
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But despite the tight turnaround, Ricciardo said he was settling into his new role smoothly.
“Obviously there’s a lot of outside attention, but once I put the helmet on and got in the car, it all felt in a way like I never really left, so that was nice,” he said.
It was an unfavourable Friday to make a return, however, with first practice all but washed out by sudden heavy rain and second practice affected by a trial tyre rule that curtailed running.
By the end of Friday Ricciardo was 14th on the time sheet and 0.699 seconds off the pace set by Charles Leclerc.
That put him 0.451 seconds behind teammate Yuki Tsunoda, who was superb in the unpredictable session to snatch fourth.
“I think positions are probably not too relevant at the moment,” Ricciardo said. “I think it was more just for me today to feel basically where I am with the car. It all felt pretty familiar.
“Obviously this morning we didn’t really get anything. This afternoon I think [we were missing] just a little bit on the new tyre, but nothing really I’m concerned about.”
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Ricciardo was buoyed by a positive feeling in the car, which he said boded well for Saturday.
“I think the car felt okay, so to be honest it doesn’t feel too bad. A bit of work tonight but nothing crazy.
“I think a bit more out of me [is to come], and for sure there are some things already I feel in the car that we can try and work on.
“Right now I’m quite optimistic. It looked like Yuki as well had a pretty good day. I think if we put all these things together, maybe tomorrow we can do okay.”
Tsunoda’s advantage over Ricciardo came in three key parts of the circuit: the first turn, where he was harder and later on the brakes; the slalom between turns 9 and 11, where he could carry a higher minimum speed; and the turn 13 hairpin, where he was again more aggressive slowing the car.
The Japanese driver said he was pleased to be so close to the top of the order, but he didn’t expect to hold the place come qualifying,
“So far it’s been a pretty good free practice,” he said. “To be in the top four, which hasn’t happened this season — I would say so far it’s good.
“Long run so far is all — I hear from the engineers — pretty okay, and also the balance felt quite consistent.
“Obviously a couple of teams haven’t shown their true performance, so I can’t say we’re really good for this position, but so far I’m pretty happy with it.”
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