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Helmut Marko: Drivers must deliver to stay with Red Bull

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has sent out a warning shot to the Formula 1 drivers on the energy drink giant’s books, saying that they they will be dropped if they do not deliver in 2016.

Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat were evenly matched at Red Bull throughout 2015, but both are thought to be under pressure with up-and-coming racers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. both impressing at junior team Toro Rosso.

Verstappen, 18, had a particularly impressive debut season in F1, leading to speculation about a move up the grid to either Red Bull or potentially away from the team’s setup.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Marko said that the members of the junior program had to deliver if they wanted to keep their seats.

“We basically have long-term contracts at the Red Bull junior program and the whole program is based on performance,” Marko said.

“So no shoot-out, but be very clear: the one who is not delivering goes.”

Marko expects Toro Rosso to outperform the senior Red Bull team for the first half of the season by virtue of its 2015-spec Ferrari power unit.

Red Bull will race with a rebranded Renault power unit in 2016, which is still thought to be down on power compared to the old Ferrari engine for the start of the year.

“I could imagine that they will land in front of Red Bull Racing at the start of the season – probably until midseason – because the power difference is still that significant,” Marko said.

“In midseason probably the performance will drop, as you cannot further develop the 2015 engine.”

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).