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2018 F1 calendar approved; Brazil GP security issue raised

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PARIS (AP) Formula One races in Bahrain and China will swap places early in the season as initially planned following approval of the 2018 F1 calendar on Wednesday.

Motor sport’s governing body FIA confirmed the proposed switch, with Bahrain taking place at the Sakhir circuit on April 8 and the Chinese GP in Shanghai a week later.

As usual, the F1 season begins with the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 25.

All the other races in the 21-race calendar were confirmed from the original plan set out in June, with the exception of the United States GP in Austin on Oct. 21 being subject to confirmation. Brazil (Nov. 11 at Interlagos) and Abu Dhabi (Nov. 25 at Yas Marina) are the last two races.

Questions were raised about the Brazilian GP being held next year in Sao Paulo after serious security scares last month.

Members of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team were robbed at gun point in their minivan while leaving the track. Valuables were stolen but there were no injuries reported.

Street crime is endemic in Brazil, which has been battered in the last several years by its worst recession in memory. Thieves at the F1 race often target cars stuck in traffic jams at the exit of the circuit located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sao Paulo city center.

At this year’s race, FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said the car in which he was leaving the track was assaulted by gun-wielding assailants who attempted to smash in the bullet-proof windows with the vehicle stuck in traffic.

In response to these latest incidents, new security measures were proposed Wednesday.

The FIA directly urged that the race promoter uses an “independent security expert to evaluate and advise on security plans,” while implementing a police reporting hub at the circuit and improving “overall communication between the promoter security, police and F1 stakeholders.”

The French GP, meanwhile, returns after a 10-year absence and will be hosted at the iconic Paul Ricard circuit, also known as Le Castellet, in southern France on June 24.

Paul Ricard last hosted the French GP in 1990. The race was then organized at Magny-Cours from 1991-2008 but was dropped from the calendar in 2008 because of financial issues.

The German GP, which has struggled with attendances and track fees, was scrapped this year but will return at Hockenheim on July 22.

The Azerbaijan GP has been moved forward to April 29, making it the fourth race of the season. The Russian GP in Sochi, held this year at the end of April, shifts to Sept. 30. That late September slot was normally reserved for the Malaysian GP, which has been dropped.

There were doubts over the Singapore GP, subject to commercial rights holder confirmation, but it will go ahead on Sept. 16.

2018 schedule:

March 25: Melbourne, Australia

April 8: Sakhir, Bahrain

April 15: Shanghai, China

April 29: Baku, Azerbaijan

May 13: Barcelona, Spain

May 27: Monaco

June 10: Montreal, Canada

June 24: Le Castellet, France

July 1: Spielberg, Austria

July 8: Silverstone, England

July 22: Hockenheim, Germany

July 29: Budapest, Hungary

Aug. 26: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Sept. 2: Monza, Italy

Sept. 16: Singapore

Sept. 30: Sochi, Russia

Oct. 7: Suzuka, Japan

Oct. 21: Austin, United States (asterisk) (subject to confirmation)

Oct. 28: Mexico City, Mexico

Nov. 11: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Nov. 25: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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).