McLaren/LAT

Vandoorne hails McLaren’s ‘best day’ of 2017 so far at Bahrain test

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Stoffel Vandoorne was left pleased after McLaren enjoyed its “best day” so far in 2017 at the Bahrain in-season Formula 1 test.

Blighted by numerous problems with its Honda power unit, McLaren has recorded just two classified finishes so far this season and failed to score a single point, leaving the British team at the foot of the constructors’ championship.

The problems limited development driver Oliver Turvey to just 17 laps on Tuesday at the start of the test at the Bahrain International Circuit, frustrating the Briton on his first F1 test day for nearly two years.

Vandoorne enjoyed a better Wednesday, though, completing 81 laps – more than he completed in the Australia, China and Bahrain races combined – and posted the fourth-fastest time.

“Today has probably been our best day this season so far. It’s the first time that we’ve had a day without any big problems, where we could actually get on with our program,” Vandoorne said.

“I think we completed everything we wanted to do today, and we went through a lot of set-up stuff that we didn’t manage to do in Barcelona.

“It’s been a very productive day and I’m very happy that we’ve been able to do so many laps. Especially after a difficult day yesterday and a difficult weekend, it wasn’t looking great, but I’m very pleased.

“For the team, it’s not been an easy week, after a double-header and then coming to the test with so many issues. They’ve been working flat-out, and they’ve done a very good job to get the car back out on track every time.”

Vandoorne once again expressed faith in the McLaren MCL32 chassis, adding that a number of updates will be brought to the upcoming races.

“Today and all weekend I’ve actually felt very comfortable in the car. The chassis is behaving well, and we’ll bring some more new bits to the car over the next few races.

“The key is to be able to have a weekend where everything runs smoothly, which we haven’t been able to do yet. If we can do that, hopefully we can show we are making progress.

“We just need to keep working hard and wait for the moment when everything falls together.”

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.