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McLaren approaches Mercedes over possible F1 engine supply

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McLaren has made a provisional approach to former engine supplier Mercedes over a possible deal regarding Formula 1 powers units, according to multiple reports out on Thursday.

McLaren enjoyed a long-running partnership with Mercedes between 1995 and 2014, yielding drivers’ championships in 1998, 1999 and 2008, as well as one constructors’ crown in that period.

McLaren cut ties with Mercedes at the end of 2014 as the latter’s factory team became its focus, moving to rekindle its partnership with Honda that ruled over F1 in the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Such form has been hard to repeat, with Honda instead struggling to catch up with the other power unit suppliers in F1, resulting in continued struggles for McLaren.

The issues came to a head in pre-season testing when drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were forced to sit on the sidelines for much of the running.

The ongoing struggles have led to questions about McLaren and Honda’s future that only intensified following reports on Thursday that the team was exploring other options.

As per BBC Sport and motorsport.comMcLaren has made what the former called an “exploratory approach” regarding an engine supply from Mercedes in the future should its deal with Honda come to an early end.

Mercedes has one F1 engine supply up for grabs after originally planning to work with the Manor team in 2017 before its closure in January.

The German manufacturer’s power units have been the class of the field since the introduction of V6 turbos in 2014, with the works Mercedes team winning three straight world title doubles.

However, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier stressed over testing that McLaren and Honda remained committed to one another and were working hard to get through the current rough patch of form.

McLaren has not won a race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, and last scored a podium finish in 2014 at the season-opener in Australia. Since teaming up with Honda, it has finished no higher than sixth in the constructors’ championship.

The new F1 season kicks off at Albert Park in Melbourne in March 26.

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).