Motor racing-AlphaTauri say Ricciardo's return still "a while away"

FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore - September 14, 2023 AlphaTauri's Daniel Ricciardo arrives ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix REUTERS/Edgar Su/File Photo

SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Daniel Ricciardo's return to the Formula One starting grid may still be some way off as the Australian driver recovers from a broken hand, the Australian's AlphaTauri team said on Friday.

The 34-year-old has missed four races, including Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, but there has been talk of him returning in Qatar next month.

AlphaTauri's chief race engineer Jonathan Eddolls told reporters that there was no hurry to get him back, however, with New Zealander Liam Lawson serving as a stand-in.

"We all saw him (Ricciardo) in Singapore. He’s still going through that recovery phase. I'd say we're still talking a while away," he said.

"I wouldn't want to put a target on it. The recovery is going well. We've got some simulator work planned before a return. And I think 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's properly healed and cause any issues."

There are five races after Qatar, all in the Americas before the final round in Abu Dhabi.

Eddolls said the simulator work would provide a good fitness test.

"I think the final decision is more than likely going to come from him rather than from us. He will know better than anyone how's the pain, how's the recovery," he said.

"The focus is on him making a full recovery so that when he comes back, it's not a point that's even talked about."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)

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