Vettel and Ricciardo ready for challenge of Monza

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Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo are both relishing the challenge posed by the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

The circuit on the outskirts of Milan is one of the most famous in racing, having featured in all but one F1 championship in 1950. Although Ricciardo may struggle to secure his third straight victory next Sunday, he is still hoping to stand on the podium for the first time in Italy.

“There’s something about flashing through those trees in front of that massive crowd that definitely gets the pulse all the way up,” he said in Red Bull’s grand prix preview. “The crowd in Monza is wild. Obviously it’s full-on Ferrari but in the past they’ve always been very generous to me. I’d love to get the opportunity to stand on that brilliant podium and find out!

“The biggest challenges at Monza nowadays are the braking zones. The first chicane is the ultimate example: you’re coming down to that first chicane at the highest speed an F1 car will reach all year and you’re braking into one of the tightest corners you’ll take all year.

“Added to that you’re doing this with the least amount of downforce you’ll have all year – which means the car tends to slide around quite a bit as well as taking longer to stop.”

Teammate Sebastian Vettel will return to the site of his first ever win in Formula 1 next weekend, and he has a lot of good memories from racing in Italy throughout his career. He won the 2008 race for Scuderia Toro Rosso in torrential rain, which to this day stands as the team’s only victory.

“I have some friends in Italy from the karting days and also Toro Rosso so it is nice to go back there,” the German said. “For me one of the best places is obviously Monza for the race circuit, which is one of the fastest tracks we go to.

“The track has brutal deceleration points, is especially tough on the brakes and the tires are also heavily loaded, especially in the fast corners such as the Curva Grande and Parabolica.

“It is extremely difficult in Monza to get a perfect lap because it is almost impossible to hit every curve and every chicane in the way you want.”

Vettel has stood on the top step of the podium at the Italian Grand Prix on three occasions, with his latest victory coming last season as the second in a sequence of nine straight wins.

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.