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Ricciardo always confident of rebuffing late Bottas charge at Suzuka

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Daniel Ricciardo always felt confident of holding on to third place in Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix despite a late charge from Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, giving Red Bull its seconds straight double-podium in Formula 1.

Ricciardo started third at Suzuka, but slipped back to fifth on the opening lap as teammate Max Verstappen and Force India’s Esteban Ocon battled past.

Ricciardo was able to overtake Ocon with a brave move around the outside at Turn 1 before enduring quite a lonely race, only to be caught by Bottas on a reverse strategy in the closing stages.

A Virtual Safety Car helped stall Bottas’ charge, with Ricciardo then having the pace to finish a second clear at the checkered flag for Red Bull.

“Overall the race today was a thumbs up for me. At the start of the weekend I said I wanted to get a podium in Suzuka and I got it,” Ricciardo said.

“I need to look back at the start and the actual getaway as that was what cost me the place to Max and Ocon. The first 100 meters could have been better but otherwise the race was pretty lonely in third place. As fun as this track is on one lap it’s tricky to do much in the race and very hard to follow another car.

“In the end it was actually nice to have some pressure from Valtteri to keep me pushing all the way to the finish. I felt confident I could keep third place in the closing laps if I drove cleanly and hit all the apexes, which is what I did.

“It’s my ninth podium of the season which is a new record for me and to be in the position that we are now makes me pretty happy. It’s really encouraging for the team to have another double podium, both cars are getting to the finish reliably now and we are also quick.

“We should be able to put up a good fight in Austin and Mexico and if we can keep this rolling into 2018 then absolutely we should be looking pretty good.”

With Verstappen finishing second, Red Bull’s Suzuka result marked the first time it has scored back-to-back podiums in the V6 hybrid era that started in 2014.

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).