Worst qualifying of the season for Mercedes in Austin

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Qualifying for tomorrow’s United States Grand Prix (live on NBC from 1pm ET) proved to be difficult for Mercedes as the German team suffered its worst result of the season on a Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton failed to pose much of a challenge to the all-conquering Red Bulls at the front, finishing over one second behind poleman Sebastian Vettel. However, he was satisfied with fifth place, all things considered.

“That was a really tricky session this afternoon so I have to be pleased with fifth place although, of course, I’d rather have been fighting for a position on the first two rows,” Hamilton said after qualifying. “The car was quick out there and I had a good balance but we just couldn’t get the tires to work. I need to have a good start in the race and, if we can achieve that, then there is still a lot to play for.”

For Nico Rosberg though, qualifying was highly disappointing as he could only finish in fourteenth place meaning that he was eliminated in Q2 for the first time since the German Grand Prix.

“I had real problems getting my tires into the right working window today and it’s so disappointing to have not gone through to Q3,” the German driver said. “It was all about finding the right compromise in the conditions which saw very hard tires on a very soft track surface, and we saw a lot of surprises today as a result.

“Tomorrow should be warmer which will improve the situation for us but starting so far back is not ideal. We’ve worked a lot on our race pace so the car should be strong tomorrow and I’ll be pushing really hard to move forward, overtake some guys and score good points.”

Conditions did change between final practice and qualifying, with the wind picking up and the temperature rising before dropping again later on in the session. Therefore, both drivers will be hoping that their race pace is good enough to see them salvage a double-points haul that could prove pivotal in the fight for second place in the constructors’ championship.

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).