Force India success lies in decision to switch focus in 2013

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Just as Sauber’s decision to keep developing its 2013 car has come back to haunt the Swiss team in 2014, Force India’s Otmar Szafnauer has said the team’s call to focus on this year early has proven to be the right one.

In 2013, Force India made a good start to the season before its form fell off towards the end of the year, with the team eventually finishing sixth in the constructors’ behind McLaren.

Although Szafnauer, Force India’s chief operating officer, thinks that the team could have finished fifth, it would not have made such a superb start in 2014, and he feels that the changes made to Pirelli’s compounds damaged Force India more than others.

“We had a dilemma: do we stop what we’re doing for 2014 and react to the new tires, which would have taken us a while, or do we just continue?” he told Formula1.com, reflecting on 2013. “Had we tried to react, it would have had a bigger impact on this year’s car than what we could have gained last year.

“The only thing we could have gained was beating McLaren to fifth, and that was close anyway. So the potential upside was one position, but the downside this year would have been huge.”

Szafnauer was also quick to praise drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who have scored 98 points to put the team ahead of McLaren in the constructors’ with eight races to go.

“We have a very good relationship, a long-standing one, with Nico,” he said. “He is very intelligent, has good feedback and helps us develop the car.

“Sergio has fitted in very well in his first year. He is a very quick racing driver, especially in the races. He finished on the podium and Nico has scored in every race, so they’ve both done a very good job.”

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).