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Nato nicks GP2 feature race pole at Silverstone

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Norman Nato continued his impressive start to the 2016 GP2 Series season by scoring pole position at Silverstone on Friday in the narrowest of circumstances.

Racing Engineering’s Nato found himself embroiled in a battle with Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly for pole, edging out the Frenchman with five minutes remaining.

However, Nato crossed the line just as the session was red flagged following a stoppage for Oliver Rowland, leaving to a post-qualifying investigation to see whether the lap would be allowed.

Stewards were satisfied that Nato’s lap of 1:38.216 was posted before the session was red flagged, handing him pole for Saturday’s feature race at Silverstone.

“It was very close!” Nato – also celebrating his birthday on Friday – said. “On the first set I was P2 behind Pierre, their speed was much quicker than us, and I didn’t put my lap together the way I wanted.

“On the second set we didn’t touch the car: I just said to my engineer I wanted to improve the lap just with my driving because I knew were to improve, and this was what I did.

“We were a bit lucky with what happened with the red flag, but in motorsport you need luck sometimes: I’ve been unlucky in Monaco, today I’m lucky, and it’s good for me.”

Gasly was left to settle for second place, two-tenths of a second behind, while Nicholas Latifi was one of a handful of drivers to improve after the red flag, qualifying third.

Raffaele Marciello ended the session fourth ahead of Sergey Sirotkin, who will start the race from the pit lane after failing to visit the weighbridge when requested during the session.

Antonio Giovinazzi will start fifth ahead of Mitch Evans, Jordan King and Arthur Pic, while Oliver Rowland will line up ninth on the grid despite his spin. Artem Markelov rounds out the top 10.

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).