A refreshed Daniel Ricciardo felt points would have been possible on his Formula 1 comeback in Hungary without being compromised on the opening lap.
Ricciardo was hit by Zhou Guanyu into Turn 1, which nudged the Australian into the path of Esteban Ocon, who was pushed into the side of Alpine team-mate Pierre Gasly.
Ricciardo avoided damage in the collision which accounted for both Alpine drivers though having been forced wide he dropped to the rear of the field, having started from 13th position.
Ricciardo recovered to finish in 13th place, 21 seconds behind Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, who rounded out the top 10, in a race without interruptions.
“If we stayed ahead and held position at the start I believe we could have really fought for a points finish today,” said Ricciardo.
“I was kind of just stuck behind a bit of a train behind [Logan] Sargeant and someone else and I knew in dirty air, even with these new cars, this circuit is definitely a hard one to follow at.
“But I think they pitted quite early and as soon as they did I felt the grip coming back in the tyre and thought ‘let’s see what we can do in clear air’. And that was better. Then we pitted relatively early. I think we got put back in trafifc and that’s when I was like ‘whatever we can do let’s have a think to give me clear air.’”
It marked Ricciardo’s first race since last November’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“Even if it wasn’t the year I expected off, half a year still gave me a kind of reset,” he said. “I feel energised again. Actually I remember having a conversation with [Fernando] Alonso, maybe two years ago now. We were just having a chat and he said the break for him was one of the best things he ever did.
“That got me thinking that if I ever feel I need it, don’t be so scared of it. Then I think seeing the year he’s had filled me with some confidence. Really glad to have been put in this position and come back feeling everything normal again. The grid, the start, the adrenaline, the emotion… I enjoyed it all.”