Alonso unimpressed by Red Bull pace

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Despite trailing SebastianVettel by 22 points in the drivers’ championship, Fernando Alonso has said that he is unimpressed by Red Bull’s pace in the first two races.

“I don’t think Red Bull was too impressive.

“In Australia they dominated all sessions and had a pretty spectacular pace, [in the Malaysian GP] we knew they had problems with degradation and in fact Mercedes was fighting with them until the end.”

When speaking to Autosport, Alonso expressed his confidence in Ferrari’s 2013 title challenge, despite his failure to finish in Malaysia.

“I think we could have been on the podium [in Malaysia]. If we have a weekend with normal conditions, let’s hope we have a good qualifying and pick up good points.

“In China and Bahrain we were ninth and seventh last year, so this year is relatively easy to improve on that, and if we arrive in Europe with three podiums it will be good for our morale.”

Ferrari’s 2012 campaign was hindered by their car, but Alonso managed to finish second in the championship, just three points behind eventual champion Vettel. Therefore, the start the team has made encourages the 2005 and 2006 world champion, although he did admit the first few races are difficult to judge.

“The first two races have been very unstable and we don’t really know the positions of the cars yet. We haven’t seen anyone’s potential yet in qualifying and we don’t really knew where we are.”

Ferrari’s gamble with Alonso failed to pay off in Malaysia, with the team opting not to pit the Spaniard despite his front wing suffering damage on lap one of the race. On lap two, the front wing came loose and went underneath Alonso’s car, causing him to career into the gravel and retire from the race. However, if Ferrari can perform well in China and Bahrain, they will be well placed to challenge Red Bull for the title in 2013.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.