Alonso lacking pace to challenge Vettel

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Fernando Alonso has admitted that Ferrari have a great deal of work to do in order to challenge pace-setter Sebastian Vettel this weekend.

“I’m not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best.”

Alonso finished a strong third in FP1 behind Vettel and teammate Felipe Massa, but Ferrari could not continue this good form in FP2. Double-champion Alonso could only finish sixth, over eight-tenths off Vettel’s time. However, he was still pleased with his efforts during practice.

“Overall, this was a very productive Friday, as we did a lot of laps and got through an important initial analysis of the behavior of the two types of Pirelli tires available for this race.”

Ferrari look to be in the running for a podium this weekend, and although Alonso was satisfied with his pace, he did admit that it may change on Saturday or Sunday should the predicted rain showers arrive in Melbourne.

“Our efforts were helped by particularly favorable weather with sunshine and summery temperatures. However, the weather is expected to change completely from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperature, which could influence Sunday’s race.”

Despite not matching Red Bull on Friday, Ferrari are in a better position than this time last season as Alonso and Massa struggled with the F2012. Both drivers have revealed their delight with the new car, the F138, and if they can develop the car over the coming weeks, Red Bull may face stiff competition in defending their world championships.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.