Hulkenberg: Team performance in Korea was outstanding

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Nico Hulkenberg continues to ride the crest of a wave following his excellent performance at last weekend’s Korean Grand Prix where he managed to equal his career-best finish by coming fourth ahead of both Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

With the car failing to live up to expectations and Sauber being blighted by financial difficulties, Hulkenberg has had a tough season. However, he appears to be enjoying an upturn in fortunes heading into this weekend’s race at Suzuka in Japan, and he attributed this resurgence to the improved pace of the car.

“I certainly haven’t changed,” Hulkenberg said on Thursday in Japan. “I think the car. Of course we’ve put on some updates: a big one in Budapest – which we now understand better and better – and then some small bits and bobs. I think the tires did the rest.”

Hulkenberg went on to thank his team for such a good performance in Korea where he managed to hold off Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikkonen throughout the race despite the drivers having quicker cars and four world titles between them.

“What we did in Korea I think was outstanding,” he said. “I’m really happy and proud about that but we probably punched above our weight there and out-performed a few cars which we shouldn’t do. But there was this opportunity and we grabbed it. So that was very good.”

Following Hulkenberg’s twelve-point haul in Korea, Sauber are now tied with Toro Rosso on thirty-one points for seventh place in the constructors’ championship.

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.