Ricciardo’s midseason Formula 1 comeback was halted by a broken metacarpal in his left hand after crashing his AlphaTauri at Zandvoort.

His journey to recovery included Dr. Xavier Mir, the Barcelona doctor who is well-respected in MotoGP for fixing these types of injuries.

Mir has operated on Marc Marquez after his notable 2020 injury, and also on Lance Stroll’s wrist injury earlier this year.

“From the medical centre, we went to the hospital there in Amsterdam, got scans, and they're like, ‘yeah, it's broken’,” Ricciardo told the Beyond The Grid podcast.

“By this point, it looks like an elephant stepped on my hand. The doctor there said, ‘look, I would recommend surgery. You can have it here, but you probably want to wait a few days for the swelling to go down, speak to whoever you need to speak to, and obviously you can have your surgery wherever you want.’

“We reached out to Lance. We reached out to Jose, a friend of ours who works with Alpine stars, so he knows all the MotoGP guys, and he's Spanish as well. 

“He put us in touch with Xavier Mir. Lance was like, ‘go to him as well.’ 

“It was a blessing and a curse because he does a lot of MotoGP guys, who are not human. They are not. It’s fact. 

“I think there's an expectation of me going in there. He's like, ‘oh, F1, MotoGP, they’re the same - not human, don't feel pain.’ 

“No doctor, I feel pain. I'm going to cry for the next 48 hours in this hospital! It was just funny!

“I think all the doctors and nurses who were helping me were great, but they would laugh a lot because I would wince and pull away and ask questions about every needle that went into my arm. 

“I think they just thought I would be tough like a MotoGP rider. But I’m not. 

“The break itself was quite significant and it was a shatter. It was in eight pieces. 

“For a bone that can be quite a simple one, it wasn't too pretty. It's like the outside of the hand. The bone I broke was in between the wrist and the pinky, like that knuckle.

“Even just rubbing my finger over the top of my hand hurt like crazy. Maybe I just feel pain more than others. I don't know. 

“There was also the reality where, yes, I would moan and complain because I don't like the pain, but it was a broken hand. 

“There was also part of me which was like, 'yes, you're in pain and it's going to be a bit of a process, but people have worse injuries. People have bigger accidents’. 

“Don't get me wrong, I also tried to reality check myself through it all. I think that's what made me remain quite positive.”

Ricciardo missed five rounds, during which his replacement Liam Lawson impressed hugely.

“I was doing physio every day and I was doing what I could to come back as soon as possible,” Ricciardo said. 

“But Red Bull and AlphaTauri were really good with this, as I wasn't fighting for a world championship. 

“It's not like you need to just drive through immense pain and just get a point, because your title is on the line. 

“It was, ‘let's make sure you heal properly and get the right treatment, because also you've got hopefully a second part of your career, which is going to be long and glorious. Don't compromise anything that you then have a bung hand for the next two years of your career, three years, whatever.’”

Ricciardo returned in Austin but said: “Qatar was talked about. I went on the sim the week of Qatar on the Monday, but I couldn't yet drive with the full force of the steering. 

“I just couldn't grip it and do more than two laps at full strength. It was very clear that Qatar was out of the question, and also for me to come back and not drive at my best, no one benefits. At that point, we were just like, ‘let’s go all in for Austin and make sure I’m good for that.’”

'Sometimes you just don't have the luxury of time'

The injury occurred during Free Practice 2 at the Dutch Grand Prix, which was only Ricciardo’s third round since returning to the grid.

He explained the accident: “You come through Turn 2 and it's over a crest. 

“You stay quite tight because the line for 3, you ride the top of the banking, so you're not taking a conventional racing line. 

“You're not looking at the apex, you're looking at the top of the corner. As a driver, we're always looking ahead and normally at the apex. 

“But the way you exit 2, you then look straight ahead and pick your braking point. At that point I'd exited 2, I hadn't seen any yellows, nothing like that.

“By the time I've looked ahead and braked, I've then looked where I need to turn and I see Oscar. This all happened so quickly. The line we take is high, and by this point I'd braked, so I'd already committed. I knew the speed I was going. 

“My only choice was to take the high line, but I could see his car was at the top of the track, so there wasn't enough room for me to pass through the high line. 

“I'm going too fast to take a low line, so it was either probably look like a real idiot and crash into him, or just try to slow the car as much as I can and likely just crash into the barriers, which is what happened.

“By the time I'd committed to just going straight, I hadn’t realised, ‘take your hands off the wheel.’ 

“A lot of us still don't do it because crashing is not natural, and it happens so quickly because you don't plan to crash. You don't have the time to be like, ‘okay, I'm crashing. What do I need to do? Brace myself. Okay, take my hands off the wheel.’ 

“Sometimes you just don't have the luxury of time. That was it. I hit the wall.

“Basically, when I've gone in, I'm pretty sure the right front would have grabbed the Tecpro first and that’s pulled it in. It’s like I’ve turned a really hard right, the way it's grabbed the wheel. 

“Because the wheels then turn so quickly, I've basically lost grip. It's spun out of my hands and the bottom of the wheel, which is pure hard carbon, has then come up and basically karate chopped my hand. 

“Then you've got the shock of a crash and adrenaline. I could feel my hand. The pain ramped up and really quickly I feared something was bad.

“As I'm pulling my glove off, I remember thinking, ‘if there's a bone through the skin, I'm going to pass out. Please, please don't let me see anything gruesome.’ I’m not good with this stuff, I’m sweating telling it. I pulled my glove off and I could see it was already quite swollen, but no bone through the skin. 

“Then the pain just got so bad. As soon as I jumped into the medical car, I was making a lot of noises because I was in a lot of discomfort.

“I knew that it was not good. I knew immediately I wasn't going to race on the weekend. I didn't need a doctor to tell me. I feared it was a broken bone. I think the first thing that really made me sad was that I’d just had a very, very productive summer break. 

“I felt really, really good physically, and I was just ready to go. This just felt like an unfortunate setback. I was more worried about surgery and all that because I'm a bit of a wuss.”