Perez, Maldonado mixed on future outlooks

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The two men in the spotlight of the five drivers at Wednesday night’s FOTA Fan Forum at Cedar Street Courtyard in downtown Austin were Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, both of whom are confirmed to leave their current teams after the final two Grands Prix of the 2013 Formula One season.

Perez and McLaren part ways after a single season while Maldonado will leave Williams after his third. Speaking at the forum Wednesday, Perez admitted the timing of the decision leaves him in the lurch while Maldonado appeared more optimistic.

“The ideal is to find a team to fight for podiums, the ones I miss so much this year,” Perez said. “But it’s relatively a bit far back to find now. This year’s not been what we expected.

“It’s disappointing, but this is life. I have a long career in front of me. I’m only 23; I won’t be in F1 just to be in F1.”

Maldonado, by contrast: “That’s a tough question (as to where he’ll land), but we’re working really hard to solve the situation. We hope to have it clear soon.”

To be fair, the other three drivers in attendance, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Caterham’s reserve driver Alexander Rossi, don’t have their 2014 plans confirmed yet either. Of the three though, Sutil spoke most positively about next year.

“This year we’ve had a good start and a really strong forward direction,” Sutil said. “We had the tire change middle of the season and it didn’t help us. We’re finding our way back now as we move on next year.”

Rossi – who hopes to become the next American to race in F1 – had a simple response when asked if he had any interest in racing anything Stateside in 2014.

“No, I don’t,” he deadpanned to raucous applause from the audience.

Gutierrez didn’t field any questions about his future as yet. His form has come on in the second half of the season at a few races – Singapore and Japan in particular – although he’s still shaded Nico Hulkenberg.

The event itself played a bit like BBC’s “Top Gear” – hundreds of folks packed into a tightly condensed space and posing questions in an open, informal forum, hosted by English broadcaster Jonathan Greene. It was also live streamed online.

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.