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Raikkonen hit with grid penalty in Mexico after gearbox change

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Kimi Raikkonen will start the Mexican Grand Prix from 18th position after receiving a grid penalty for changing his gearbox ahead of Saturday’s qualifying session.

Raikkonen was forced to park his car at the side of the track during FP3 on Saturday morning after a small fire broke out on his power unit.

Ferrari was forced to switch back to an old engine and change the gearbox on Raikkonen’s car as a result, prompting the stewards to hand the Finn a five-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday.

“The gearbox of car 7 has been changed before six consecutive events have expired,” a brief statement from the stewards confirmed.

Raikkonen qualified 15th for the race on Saturday after a brake issue forced him to pit halfway through Q2 without having set a competitive time.

Despite being given a five-place grid drop, the Finn will start 18th as both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button have heftier penalties, leaving them on the back row.

“This morning we had a problem with the car in P3, and we had to change the engine and the gearbox,” Raikkonen said. “It was a very tight call to put everything back together, but the guys did an excellent job to make the car ready for Q1 in that small lapse of time available.

“However, there was not enough time and not everything was 100 per cent. I still had a small issue with brakes. Actually, they were working, but then they locked up on one lap.

“Anyway, with all the penalties we are getting tomorrow, our best option was to do well enough to make it to Q2 and not really do anything after that. We did three fast laps so that we can check later that everything is okay with the car and try to make a good run out of it.”

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
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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).