Sauber’s pair seek further experience in China

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Behind the leading four teams, Nico Hulkenberg led Formula 1’s midfield runners in Malaysia with an eighth place finish. The Sauber driver isn’t quite as bullish heading into China this week.

“The circuit in Shanghai is not particularly one of my favorite tracks, nevertheless it’s a demanding one, especially the first few corners and the corners before the back straight,” he said. “Tires and strategy will be very important during the weekend.”

Hulkenberg had his first start for Sauber last race after a fuel pump failure sidelined him in Australia. He drove in Malaysia with damage but still fought through.

“At the beginning of the race in Malaysia my rear wing endplate was damaged, which caused a loss of downforce,” he said. “I have a better feeling now I have driven my first race in the C32, especially because we were able to collect a lot of information. In Malaysia we scored points and that is also my goal for China.”

Rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez, who has been solid if unspectacular in his first two races, has yet to turn a lap of the Shanghai International Circuit.

“I don’t actually know the track yet, so it will be an interesting challenge again to learn the circuit and then to develop confidence throughout the practice sessions,” said the Mexican driver. “I have heard it is a very complex track with some fast corners and, at the same time, is very technical.

“Learning a new track all depends on the approach you take,” he added. “You can learn a lot through video footage, your engineer’s advice on the right gears in different parts of the track and, most important of all, the more confidence you have in your car the easier it is to learn a new one. Compared to the first race in Melbourne, I now know the car so I can focus on learning the track. My goal is to improve and I’m looking forward to that.”

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.