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Vettel left in ‘no man’s land’ in USGP as F1 title hopes all but end

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Sebastian Vettel said he was left in “no man’s land” during the fight with Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s United State Grand Prix as his Formula 1 title hopes were all but ended.

Vettel led the opening five laps at the Circuit of The Amerias in Austin, Texas after a flying start from P2 on the grid, but was powerless to keep Hamilton back or keep up through the remainder of the race.

A late switch to a two-stop strategy left the German driver fighting back from P4 to take second at the checkered flag as Hamilton swept to his ninth win of the season.

“I think at the start it was looking good, obviously we got past Lewis but then fairly quickly we had to suddenly realize that we couldn’t keep up with his pace up today,” Vettel said.

“Then I think we were in a bit of no man’s land, not quite sure. It was close after the first stop again, but then again stuck, so towards the end we decided to pit again, take a fresh set of tires, which was a bit more exciting in the last couple of laps especially.

“But overall not the result we wanted.”

Hamilton’s victory saw his advantage in the drivers’ championship grow to 66 points, meaning a top-five finish in any of the last three races this season will be enough to give the Briton a fourth world title.

“Obviously looking back, the races where we went out didn’t help,” Vettel said when asked by NBCSN if his title hopes were over.

“I’m just not happy with today. I thought we could win, but we didn’t.”

Ferrari’s tough day was compounded by confirmation of its loss in the constructors’ championship to Mercedes, who wrapped up a fourth successive title with three races to spare.

The title was clinched despite Ferrari gaining a double podium finish, with Kimi Raikkonen being promoted to third after Max Verstappen’s post-race penalty.

“I was disappointed, I thought I finished fourth. There was some issue with Max,” Raikkonen said.

“My car was very good all the way. I just had to do fuel saving in the end, so it was not so easy.”

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).