Hamilton: Mercedes F1 car feels ‘fantastically fast’ in Austria

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Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by Mercedes’ performance during Friday’s Formula 1 practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, saying the W08 car feels “fantastically fast”.

Hamilton stormed to the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2 for Mercedes, posting the fastest ever lap of the Red Bull Ring in the afternoon running to finish 0.147 seconds clear of the field.

The British driver is targeting a fightback in Austria after finishing fifth last time out in Baku after his headrest came loose, and was pleased to enjoy a relatively stress-free Friday to set himself up for the rest of the weekend.

“It’s been a really good Friday with no major headaches to complain about so far,” Hamilton said. “We had to swap out a spark plug during FP2, but the guys did a great job to turn the car around and we still managed to complete our program.

“Most importantly, the car feels fantastically fast here. There’s already a nice balance and it feels good out on-track.

“This car is so quick in comparison to what we raced here last year. It’s tricky, but a proper thrill to hook up a lap.

“The team is in good spirits and we’re all up for another exciting fight with the Ferraris this weekend.”

Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third in both sessions, and was pleased with the impact of the updates brought by the team to Austria for the race weekend.

“There’s a good feeling inside the team and the car is clearly quick here. It was great to see that the upgrades the team worked so hard to deliver for this weekend worked straight out of the box,” Bottas said.

“Aerodynamically we’ve made another step forward from Baku, which is encouraging. This track punishes you if you make a mistake, and I tested those limits, but that’s something I can learn from and build upon for the rest of the weekend.

“The balance of the car feels good and we’ll fine tune the setup some more tonight to be ready for qualifying. Ferrari are looking strong here too, so we’re expecting another interesting weekend ahead.”

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).