Raikkonen and Vettel cautious about challenging Mercedes in Bahrain

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Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel remain cautious about challenging Mercedes at this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix despite their practice pace suggesting a second win of the year could be within Ferrari’s reach.

Raikkonen headed up a Ferrari one-two in the first free practice session in Bahrain on Friday, but the Finn was forced to settle for third place in FP2 behind Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes.

The warmer conditions in Bahrain should suit the Ferrari SF15-T car, giving the drivers a chance to build on Vettel’s win in Malaysia when high temperatures allowed him to beat Mercedes out on track.

Despite setting an impressive long run pace, Raikkonen remained cautious, saying that the team still is not where it wants to be.

“I think we are not as good as we want to be,” Raikkonen said. “In the second session it was a bit tricky with the set-up, we had some problems with the handling and we struggled in a few places.

“This evening we’ll analyze all the data in order  to improve and do a better job tomorrow. Having a clear qualifying makes life easier in the race.

“I don’t know if we can challenge Mercedes, tomorrow is another day, conditions can change and this plays a big part, so let’s wait and see.”

Vettel finished second in FP1 and fourth in FP2 behind his teammate, but his session was overshadowed by a late run-in with Force India’s Sergio Perez.

“I came out of the garage and had a problem,” the German explained. “I hit the brakes but suddenly there was a blow and I couldn’t brake properly. Therefore I hit Sergio Perez in the corner.

“Of course I’m sorry, but I couldn’t do anything else in that moment. I was looking for Sergio to say sorry, but he was still sitting in the car.”

Vettel was not punished for the incident, and was pleased with the rest of his Friday, although he remains unsure whether Ferrari can really challenge Mercedes in Bahrain.

“My fast lap was not perfect, but everything in the car feels good,” Vettel said. “Of course tonight it was quite different from this afternoon, as it was much colder.

“It’s hard to say if we got closer to Mercedes, everybody seemed to be closer to them but I’m sure they didn’t show everything today.”

You can watch qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix live on CNBC from 11am ET.

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).