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Vandoorne: McLaren MP4-31 ‘better in every area’

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Stoffel Vandoorne believes that the McLaren-Honda MP4-31 car is now “better in every area” since his previous run in the Bahrain Grand Prix six weeks ago.

Vandoorne was drafted in to replace the injured Fernando Alonso in Bahrain before going on to finish 10th on his Formula 1 debut.

The 2015 GP2 champion got back behind the wheel of the McLaren in Barcelona on Wednesday on the second of two days of post-race testing, and said that the improvements made by McLaren were very noticeable.

“The car felt good straight away today,” Vandoorne said.

“Of course, I had a few laps of adjusting to the car, but it definitely has progressed since I raced it in Bahrain. It’s been a positive and productive day.

“Although it’s easier to get into the car having experienced a full race weekend, there is always a need to readjust for F1, especially after racing in Super Formula, but I quickly got used to it.

“The car feels better in every area, with downforce feeling much improved compared to Bahrain.

“As a racing driver, you want to spend as much time as possible in the car, but I try and optimize every moment I have, and I feel like I’ve had the chance to do that today.

“All in all, the progress with the car is good, so I’m happy.”

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).