Sauber seeks Bahrain reset; two test driver runs planned

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Of the four teams yet to score a point through two Grands Prix in 2014, Lotus and Sauber are perhaps the two biggest surprises (Caterham and Marussia, not so much).

Sauber has had two nondescript runs thus far and their Sunday in Malaysia featured a double retirement. Esteban Gutierrez suffered a gearbox issue on a pit stop; Adrian Sutil had a power loss.

“After quite a long stint, I made a pitstop and couldn’t engage first gear,” said Gutierrez. “I tried it many times, but it didn’t work, so there was not much I could do. In the end we made a step forward this weekend. Obviously it was not a good race, but we have to keep positive. We must solve our issues so we are consistent and reliable at the track and have no technical problems. We still have a long season ahead and I am confident we can improve.”

Added Sutil of his afternoon, “In my last lap I lost power and then suddenly the car switched off. I don’t know what happened, so we need to analyse it. It is a shame. Many things don’t work well at the moment, so we need to learn from that.”

Head of track engineering Giampaolo Dall’Ara admitted the team has a ways to go.

“We will investigate both problems in order to solve them before the next race in Bahrain. Overall, our performance in the race wasn’t where we expected it to be, so we have some homework to do,” he said.

Additionally Monday, Sauber has confirmed official reserve driver Giedo van der Garde will take Gutierrez’s seat in FP1 at Bahrain, with test driver Sergey Sirotkin set to run on Day 1 of the next Bahrain test to accumulate the necessary mileage to gather his superlicense. Van der Garde will do Day 2 there.

Although she’ll have several days in the car this year beyond her simulation and training work, Sauber hasn’t said yet when new affiliated driver Simona de Silvestro would have an opportunity behind the wheel.

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.