Mallya: Commercial backing not a factor in Perez decision

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Although reports floated out that Sergio Perez is bringing tens of millions in euros to his seat at Force India, team principal Vijay Mallya rubbished the suggestion that commercial interests are what made the decision to hire the Mexican.

“That’s against my basic philosophy,” Mallya stated during Thursday’s press conference announcing Perez to the team’s second seat.

“I’ve always said that Sahara Force India will not take pay drivers. I owe it to my team back in Silverstone, who dedicate all their energies and passion to designing and building a competitive race car, that I will not compromise that on the track. I need the best I can get. If you see our track record, we’ve never had pay drivers. We are committed to paying both our drivers. But signing Sergio opens up areas in Mexico and Latin America previously closed to us.”

Mallya added that Perez had stuck out enough on the track to be considered on merit, even despite a solitary single season at McLaren.

“Sergio is an exceptionally talented and quick driver,” Mallya said. “He has fire in his belly. He’s gutsy and he’s hungry. That’s what I need.

“It was a challenge to find (Nico) a teammate. We evalutated our existing two drivers, Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil. When Sergio became available, we necessarily had to evaluate him as well. In concentration with my colleagues in Silverstone, we decided to go with the Checo-Nico combination.”

Mallya was also complimentary of Paul di Resta, whose F1 future is doubtful for 2014 after this confirmation.

“Paul is a wonderful guy and driver,” Mallya said. “Don’t forget we gave him his first opportunity in Formula One. We were happy to do so. We put him in the race car and he remains a very good friend. Personally I hope he stays in the F1 paddock.”

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).