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Rosberg quickest in final Singapore practice as Hamilton falters

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Nico Rosberg closed out practice for the Singapore Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets as Mercedes teammate and Formula 1 title rival Lewis Hamilton faltered.

Rosberg turned up the wick behind the wheel of his Mercedes W07 Hybrid to post a fastest lap time of 1:44.352, finishing 0.059 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the checkered flag.

Mercedes once again came under pressure from Red Bull, as had been expected by the team on Friday, but Rosberg did enough to put himself in control ahead of qualifying.

Final practice was red flagged after 10 minutes following a shunt for Pascal Wehrlein, who damaged the rear-end of his Manor in a spin. The German littered debris across the track, prompting officials to halt the session while the clean-up took place.

During the stoppage, a giant lizard was spotted making its way across the circuit, narrowly avoiding being hit by Verstappen. It was able to scamper to safety soon after, ensuring the session could resume.

Rosberg managed to complete his qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire with ease go 1.4 seconds clear of the pack at one stage, only for Verstappen to close to within six-hundredths of a second.

Kimi Raikkonen finished third for Ferrari, half a second off Rosberg’s time, while Daniel Ricciardo was P4 in the second Red Bull.

It proved to be a difficult session for Sebastian Vettel continued to struggle with the setup on his Ferrari SF16-H car. Vettel told his team he felt “like a passenger”, citing a lack of confidence in the rear of his car.

Another man who struggled was Hamilton. The defending world champion entered FP3 looking to make up for the time lost on Friday when he suffered a hydraulic failure, only to suffer a lock-up late in the session that ruined his qualifying simulation. The Briton finished the session down in eighth place with just nine laps under his belt.

Nico Hulkenberg impressed for Force India, finishing sixth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat in P7. Carlos Sainz Jr. followed in the second Toro Rosso in P9, while Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top 10 for Williams.

Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 9am ET on Saturday.

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.

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).