Mercedes works to diffuse Rosberg angst, focus on “new challenges” heading to Bahrain

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Mercedes AMG Petronas bounced back with a 1-2 finish in China last weekend after their defeat in Malaysia the previous Grand Prix.

Still, Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff was careful to note that there are still “new challenges” faced heading to Bahrain this weekend.

“After the wake-up call in Malaysia, it was satisfying to see how the team pulled together for the race in China,” Wolff said in the team’s pre-race release.

“But China also confirmed that Ferrari will be a threat in all conditions this year, not just when it’s very hot, and that we will have new challenges to face as a team, with another competitor who is much closer to our level of performance.”

Wolff then transitioned to the Nico Rosberg comment outburst last week, where Rosberg went off post-race about his perception Lewis Hamilton was backing him up and pushing him closer to Sebastian Vettel.

“We saw tensions between Nico and Lewis in the race and we tackled them directly on Sunday night to stop anything carrying over to this weekend,” Wolff said.

“We maintain our philosophy of letting the drivers race – but they both know that the number one priority for the team is to win for Mercedes-Benz.”

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).