Vettel quickest in final practice for Belgian GP

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Sebastian Vettel continued his good practice form at the Belgian Grand Prix by finishing fastest in the final session ahead of qualifying later today at Spa-Francorchamps.

The German driver finished ahead of Fernando Alonso and teammate Mark Webber at the top of the timesheets, laying down an impressive pace that suggests Mercedes’ comments about the pace of the Red Bull are entirely correct.

With clouds hanging over the circuit, rain appeared to be on the horizon. However, the session began in dry conditions with Valtteri Bottas setting the first benchmark time of 1:49.806 for Williams ahead of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez for McLaren. Kimi Raikkonen soon displaced his compatriot at the top of the timesheets whilst Felipe Massa and Paul di Resta both had near-misses with the wall at turn nine, and Lewis Hamilton sent his Mercedes into a spin at the Bus Stop chicane.

Jean-Eric Vergne sent out a reminder of his ability by moving into P1 on fresh tires at the half-way stage of the session, with Toro Rosso continuing their good form from Friday’s practice sessions. The front runners soon switched to fuel simulation runs, but Sebastian Vettel moved up into P2 as he looked to find the optimum pace of the Red Bull on the hard tire before the track fell silent as the teams prepared for one final qualifying simulation at the end of the session.

Adrian Sutil was the first driver to emerge on the medium tire, going fastest with his first flying lap despite a lock-up at La Source. The Force India was quickly beaten by both Ferrari drivers and Nico Rosberg, and Esteban Gutierrez gave Sauber something to shout about by going third-fastest with five minutes remaining. 2010 pole-sitter Mark Webber was late to emerge, but he immediately moved up into second place, and his example was duly followed by Vettel who displaced Alonso by one-tenth of a second.

The result suggests that Red Bull are once again set to be leading the race for pole position later today with Ferrari in close company. Interesting, Mercedes, who have claimed the last three pole positions, seemed to struggle in the low temperatures. However, as Hamilton proved in Hungary, the practice results are far from conclusive.

Qualifying begins at 8am ET live on NBC Sports Live Extra.

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.