Vettel resumes normal service to finish FP2 quickest

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Sebastian Vettel has returned to the top of the timesheets in the second free practice session for this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, posting a fastest time of 1:41.335 to finish just over one-tenth of a second ahead of teammate Mark Webber.

FP2 got off to a far busier start than the first session had as a number of drivers immediately went out on track, with Kimi Raikkonen being the first to post a time of 1:44.360. This remained the benchmark until Jenson Button went fastest in all three sectors to move up to P1 with teammate Sergio Perez in third place. However, the Mexican driver soon rose to top spot ahead of his McLaren stablemate, whilst Sebastian Vettel’s first effort was only good enough for fourth place as he wrestled with the car through the final sector.

Just as they had in FP1, many drivers struggled to find grip and went off as a result with Esteban Gutierrez experiencing a huge lock-up at turn eight. However, Vettel had finally found some pace and went fastest with the Mercedes pairing of Nico Rosberg Lewis Hamilton a close second and third with fifteen minutes gone, but Webber soon out-did them all to move up to P1.

Kimi Raikkonen became the first driver of the weekend to fit a set of the quicker soft tires, and he immediately went over one second quicker than Webber to go fastest as the rest of the field pitted and duly followed suit with their tire choice. Nico Hulkenberg put in a good lap to move up into second place before being displaced by Hamilton, who was just over one-tenth shy of Raikkonen’s time at first before eventually going fastest. However, Webber proved that he was quick on the soft tires as well as the hards to re-claim top spot whilst Vettel late to make his move. The German driver eventually came out and went 0.056 seconds quicker than his teammate with his first lap time, making it a Red Bull one-two at the top of the timesheets.

Jenson Button’s poor luck from India failed to improve as he suffered from a puncture on his rear-right tire, forcing him to crawl back to the pits. Fellow Brit Max Chilton was also struggling, spinning his Marussia at turn two whilst fastest man in FP1, Romain Grosjean, complained of “something wrong” after locking up and missing the chicane. It was eventually diagnosed by the team as a brake disc failure, but he did manage to get back out for the final fifteen minutes of practice.

For the second half of the session, the teams turned their attention to long runs on their tires in preparation for the race on Sunday, meaning that Vettel’s time did not come under threat. The German driver will be keen on continuing this good form in qualifying tomorrow and the race on Sunday as the newly-crowned four-time world champion goes in search of a seventh successive victory.

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.