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Long-run pace the focus for Mercedes, Bottas in Bahrain F1 test

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Valtteri Bottas and the Mercedes Formula 1 team spent Wednesday’s test at the Bahrain International Circuit focusing on long-run pace as they bid to overturn Ferrari’s race-day advantage.

After sweeping to three straight title doubles from 2014 to 2016, Mercedes has faced its stiffest challenge yet so far this season as Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel claimed victories in Australia and Bahrain.

While Mercedes has dominated on Saturdays, taking all three poles on offer so far this year, its race pace has appeared weaker than Ferrari’s, allowing the Italian marque to jump ahead.

During the second day of the in-season test in Bahrain, Bottas posted the fastest time of 1:31.280 and completed a mammoth 143 laps – close to three race distances – with a focus on long-run pace.

“Today was very good, we got so much running done. We were focusing all-day on the long-run pace, which was a bit of a problem for us on Sunday compared to Ferrari,” Bottas said.

“We did some interesting tests to try and improve both the tire life and the race pace. We have definitely got plenty to analyze tonight. I think I learned a few tricks today as well.

“To stay here in Bahrain for a test after two back to back races is tough, but the guys have done a great job over these two days of testing.

“Now we head home for a few days before the next race in Russia.”

Mercedes will look to overturn Ferrari’s three-point lead in the constructors’ championship at the next race in Sochi, Russia on April 30.

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).