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Daniel Ricciardo impressed by F1’s recent growth in the United States

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Daniel Ricciardo is impressed by Formula 1’s recent growth in the United States, saying the sport’s profile in America has noticeably risen over the past two years.

F1 returned to the United States after five years away in 2012 with a grand prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The event has been a success, playing host to bumper crowds for each of its five races, with the most recent edition in October 2016 being the best-attended yet.

American interest in F1 has also been aided by the arrival of the Haas team, which has a headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and the five-race stint for Alexander Rossi with Manor towards the end of 2015.

Speaking to The Age, Ricciardo spoke positively about F1’s growth in the United States, comparing it to its rise in his native Australia over the past decade.

“It’s still below [the popularity] here in Australia and England and that, but it’s growing, it’s definitely growing,” Ricciardo said.

“Like the last two years you can really see that, people know what Formula 1 is now.”

“I sort of see it a bit like how Australia was pre-Mark Webber’s successful years. You know, the racing fan obviously knew it and knew Mark and knew a lot of the drivers.

“But not really if you walk up to someone on the street, they wouldn’t necessarily know the name Michael Schumacher and maybe Mark Webber, and that’s it.

“I doubt it will ever be like an NBA and a baseball or anything, but yeah it’s growing the awareness is there.

“It is cool, but you know, the Americans are just happy doing their thing. You can always sort of go under the radar somehow when you are over there.”

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).