Daniel Ricciardo has expressed his delight following the Chinese Grand Prix in which he recorded his best ever finish in Formula One by finishing 7th.
The Toro Rosso driver started the race in P7, and he fought well throughout the race to finish ahead of Paul di Resta, Romain Grosjean and Nico Hulkenberg, ending up only 1.8 seconds behind Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
“I am really pleased to score my first points of the season and to confirm the qualifying performance,” Ricciardo told the official Formula One website.
“After yesterday afternoon I kept calm, knowing the real work would begin today. The last time I qualified this well was sixth in Bahrain last year and then I failed to score, so today, I really wanted to show people what I could do, so it’s great for me to have had a great race but it’s especially good for the team, who have worked so hard for this.”
Ricciardo does believe that he could have done even better had it not been for a run-in with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg which forced the Toro Rosso into a front wing change.
“The early pit stop to change the nose affected our plans and towards the end, Massa’s Ferrari was looking bigger and bigger ahead of me!
“So yes, maybe I could have done even better, but for now I’ll settle for this seventh place
The result is also Toro Rosso’s best since the 2011 Korean Grand Prix, and if Ricciardo can continue this form, he could be in the running to replace compatriot Mark Webber at Red Bull come the end of the season.
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.