Valtteri Bottas came out of a “tricky day” in Montreal with third place on the Formula 1 grid for Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix, continuing his impressive record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Since qualifying third for then-backmarkers Williams for his first Canadian Grand Prix in 2013, Bottas has enjoyed a good record at the race, taking podium finishes in 2015 and 2016.
A sign of Bottas’ rapid progress since moving up to Mercedes for 2017 came on Saturday when P3 in qualifying left him somewhat unimpressed, having struggled for pace throughout the final Q3 shootout.
Bottas finished six-tenths of a second shy of teammate Lewis Hamilton at the checkered flag, leaving him third also behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
“I was really trying hard, but it was a tricky day for me. I struggled with the balance of the car and wasn’t really happy in FP3,” Bottas explained.
“We made some changes and the car was much better in qualifying, but then in Q3 when it came down to getting those last hundredths and tenths, the car became unstable again. I just couldn’t get that lap together.
“The long runs seem OK though, so once again, I’m expecting it to be very close in the race with Ferrari. It’s all about tomorrow.”
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.