Sainz Jr. pleased with Toro Rosso upgrades in final test

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Carlos Sainz Jr. has spent a fruitful day behind the wheel of the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR10 car in Barcelona after the team introduced a raft of upgrades ahead of the first race in Australia next month.

The third and final pre-season test of the year kicked off in Barcelona today with Felipe Massa finishing at the top of the timesheets for Williams.

Sainz could only finish seventh in the final standings for Toro Rosso, 3.4 seconds down on Massa’s time, and the Spaniard lost some much-needed track time due to a technical issue on the car.

However, he was pleased with how the upgrades for the car worked, and explained how he felt more motivated as a result of the improvements.

“It was very nice to drive the car fitted with the update package,” Sainz said. “That meant much of my time was spent collecting valuable aero data for the engineers to study. Then towards the end of the morning, I managed to do a real run.

“I could immediately feel an improvement in the car, in terms of its overall grip and balance. That was a very positive and motivating feeling for the rest of the day.

“We did have an issue that cost us some track time in the afternoon, but the guys did a great job to fix it and get me out on track again, with enough time to do two more useful runs before the checkered flag.”

Ahead of his F1 debut in Australia, Sainz has enjoyed a productive winter by completing hundreds of laps behind the wheel of the Toro Rosso. He will now be hoping to build upon these improvements with a good showing in his final day of pre-season running on Saturday.

Max Verstappen will take over the reins in the STR10 on Friday, with testing continuing until Sunday in Barcelona.

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. Time just published a brief piece by Wallace saluting Hamilton as a trailblazer.

The idea of Hamilton attending the NASCAR 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 would seem right for 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 — to spend 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).