F1: Briatore hypes up Baku, while Bernie shoots down Magny-Cours

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Former Benetton and Renault team boss Flavio Briatore (pictured, left, with his wife at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix) was a driving force in bringing Formula One to Azerbaijan in 2015, and the Italian is keen to push the country’s capital of Baku as a tremendous setting for a Grand Prix.

“It’s very close to Europe, the city is amazing – it’s like a little Dubai,” Briatore told Reuters in Monte Carlo. “And more importantly, everything is new.

“The heart of the town is renovated completely so you have the flavor of the old days and of the oil money. The hotels are amazing, the facilities for your guys is super. It’s very nice.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone confirmed earlier this month that a deal has been signed with officials in Azerbaijan. The street race in Baku will be a direct replacement for the Korean Grand Prix, which has been dropped from the calendar along with the Indian Grand Prix.

Meanwhile, it appears that those hoping for a return of the French Grand Prix will be disappointed.

The country currently boasts three F1 drivers in Romain Grosjean, Jean-Eric Vergne, and Jules Bianchi, but has not had its own Grand Prix since 2008.

The French round had run at Magny-Cours, and recent French media reports have said that the track’s head was in negotiations with Formula One Management about reviving the race next year.

But Ecclestone has coolly shot down that prospect. When asked about going back to France, he replied: “No.”

“They’ll knock at the door but I don’t think we can do anything,” he added to Reuters.

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).