Ricciardo was last on the road at Austin, crossing the line 17th before gaining two places after Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified for running with overly worn floors.
It marked his first event back since August, the Australian having endured a five-round spell on the sidelines while he recovered from breaking a metacarpal in his left hand during a free practice crash at Zandvoort.
Ricciardo reckoned it was his fitness rather than hand – which felt OK out of the blocks in FP1 – that was weakest, meaning he had “no excuse” for a “pretty miserable” race made up mostly of “misfortune”.
He said: “I actually felt probably worse [after the Saturday sprint race]… so maybe that was just a good little good warm up for me. There’s positives.
“The hand is no excuse. I think that was good. We did well with the timing of the return to have no hesitations or excuses.
“Physically, it’s definitely a tougher race. I still felt OK, we were just limited with damage.”
Ricciardo’s final stint was significantly hampered by running over debris that damaged his brake duct to result in a loss of aerodynamic load and balance. That left him to suggest retiring the car altogether.
Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool
Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri
The eight-time GP winner was also frustrated by the timing of the first pitstop, which brought him out in traffic.
He continued: “Unfortunately, we picked up some damage. I told the team that, ‘I’m sorry, guys, I got nothing right now. I really can’t do anything’. That made our race a pretty miserable one.
“At best, we’re a top-10 car and when you put damage into it, we are certainly out of the points. Definitely most of our day today was misfortune, let’s say.”
Ricciardo added that Austin kicking off a quick-fire triple-header with visits to Mexico and Brazil was the best thing for his fitness because he could keep “smashing it out”.
Assessing his Texan weekend, Ricciardo continued: “At times, we lacked communication but I think especially once I got the damage, nothing really felt that constructive to give back because we’re working with a suboptimal car.
“For sure, there’s things which I take confidence from: some race fitness, the hand, a few things, which even just getting behind the wheel in FP1 like lap one, I felt like I was able to push and lean on it.
“There’s certainly some inner confidence in that. But I would say in race conditions, next week I’ll do better.”