Pujolar full of praise for Max Verstappen at Toro Rosso

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Toro Rosso race engineer Xevi Pujolar has heaped praise upon 17-year-old Max Verstappen, calling the Dutchman “the best I’ve seen so far”.

Verstappen will become the youngest ever driver to start a Formula 1 race in March at the Australian Grand Prix, smashing Sebastian Vettel’s existing record by over two years.

However, his rise to F1 has prompted criticism from many due to his age and relative inexperience, having completed just one year of single-seater racing prior to 2015.

Pujolar is not concerned though, telling GP Update that Verstappen is far beyond his years in terms of professionalism and has the potential to be one of the greatest in the history of the sport.

“He’s the best I’ve seen so far,” Pujolar said. “You can see the potential is there. You can see he’s going up.

“Some guys might be 10 or 15 years in motorsport, or even in F1, and their level of professionalism will never be as good as Max’s is at the moment.

“He wants to be the best and he works 100% for that. He wants the people around him to work just as hard. He’s pushing the engine guys, he’s pushing me and he’s pushing the team.”

Verstappen’s quick promotion led to the introduction of new criteria for the award of an FIA super licence required to race in F1. As of 2016, drivers will have to be at least 18 years old and hold a valid driving licence in their home country, meaning that Verstappen’s record may never be beaten.

During his first test for the team in Jerez at the beginning of the month, Verstappen put in a very impressive display to finish ninth in the final standings from the test with a good amount of track time under his belt.

Time will tell whether Verstappen’s rapid rise to F1 has been justified, but the early signs from the Dutchman are certainly encouraging.

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).