First blood to Grosjean in Abu Dhabi practice

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Romain Grosjean has finished the first practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix quickest after producing a brilliant lap in the dying moments of the session to deny Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel top spot.

The Frenchman’s time of 1:44.241 proved to be unbeatable as all of the drivers ran on the medium compound tire in order to save their softs for the sessions later on this weekend.

Practice got off to a rather quiet start with most teams electing to only send their drivers out for an installation lap and nothing more to begin with in order to save their tires and engines. However, Sergio Perez eventually posted the first competitive time of 1:45.331, setting the example for the rest of the field. Romain Grosjean, Jenson Button and Pastor Maldonado all followed suit half way through the session, but the Williams driver was lucky not to put his Lotus in the wall after a slide at the final corner. A number of drivers took to their team radios to complain about a lack of grip on a relatively-unused circuit, meaning that it took some time to rubber in.

Grosjean was the first driver to topple Perez at the top, edging the Mexican out by just 0.002 seconds on the medium compound tire before the front runners finally emerged from the pits to set their first times. Sebastian Vettel looked to continue his relentless run of form by going quickest with thirty-five minutes remaining, but he was told that he needed to improve further by his engineer. Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen soon proved that he did have to improve by going one-tenth quicker, but their sojourn at the top of the timesheets lasted but a few seconds as Vettel re-established his dominance. However, Mercedes hit back in fashion as Hamilton and Nico Rosberg moved into first and second place with thirty minutes left.

Mark Webber took the mantle to lead Red Bull’s charge by going second-quickest and splitting the Silver Arrows, but Vettel soon demoted his teammate to third place by going P2 himself, less than one-hundredth of a second slower after making a mistake at the final corner. Paul di Resta ran strongly to finish the session in seventh place, whilst James Calado piloted the other Force India as his bid for a full-time seat next season gathers steam. The Briton put in a confident display to finish the session in fourteenth before returning to his GP2 duties.

With just a couple of minutes remaining, Romain Grosjean produced a superb lap to go fastest of all for Lotus, and that is where he remained as none of the drivers opted to take on the soft tire. The Frenchman is currently enjoying a three-race streak of podium finishes, finishing third in India despite starting in seventeenth place, and he is looking increasingly capable of claiming his first win in Formula One.

Grosjean will be hoping to repeat this result later on today in the second free practice session, which is live on NBCSN from 9am.

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).