Valtteri Bottas continued to prove himself to be of the breakout stars of the 2014 Formula 1 season in Belgium yesterday, finishing third behind race winner Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
The Williams driver scored his fourth podium finish of the season at Spa to move within eleven points of third-placed Fernando Alonso in the standings. The Spaniard lost out to Bottas early on, and eventually finished the race down in seventh place.
“Our pace was solid today and a lot better than in qualifying, with some good battles with the Ferraris and Red Bulls, and I think third was probably the right result,” Bottas said after the race.
“I was stuck behind slower cars at the beginning which made the first stint difficult, but I managed to make my way past cars when it was needed and that was important for my race.
“We came into this race aiming for a podium and it is very satisfying to achieve that after an up and down weekend with tricky weather and Felipe [Massa] being very unlucky today with debris.”
Massa endured an anonymous race after getting some of the debris from Lewis Hamilton’s tire on his car. This cost him a great deal of performance, meaning that he could finish no higher than 13th on track.
“Unfortunately at the beginning of the race I had some tire debris stuck in the floor that came from Hamilton’s car and this made the car very slow, losing about two seconds per lap,” Massa explained. “This wasn’t removed until my second pitstop and after that I was nearly three seconds quicker and the fastest car on track, but at this point it was too late for me to really do anything.
“Obviously I’m very disappointed that something like this has hurt my race and I just hope that in Monza my luck will change and I am able to put the car in the sort of position it is capable of.”
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.