Vettel leads Webber as Red Bull dominates FP2

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Sebastian Vettel has returned to the top of the timesheets in Austin after he and teammate Mark Webber forged a Red Bull one-two during the second free practice session for the United States Grand Prix on Friday.

The German driver was pushed by his teammate for the fastest time, but the team appears to be in a class of its own in Austin as Vettel chases an unprecedented eighth consecutive win in a single season.

FP2 began without any problems unlike the session earlier today, and the entire field came out early in order to make up for the time lost this morning due to fog and a problem with the medical helicopter. Lotus set the early pace as Romain Grosjean and stand-in Heikki Kovalainen moved up to P1 and P2, but Sebastian Vettel soon resumed normal service after finishing down in eighteenth place this morning to go fastest by seven-tenths of a second. Mark Webber soon reduced the gap and moved up into second place ahead of the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, suggesting that the pecking order had not changed a great deal since Abu Dhabi.

With the first runs taking place on the hard tire, the drivers soon switched to the medium compound to gauge their one lap pace for qualifying. Nico Rosberg was the first driver to overhaul Vettel at the top, only for Webber to go faster still ahead of Vettel’s second run. The four-time world champion quickly re-established his dominance though to go fastest once again. Heikki Kovalainen was also impressive, going fifth-fastest, almost two-tenths ahead of Grosjean in the sister Lotus. Esteban Gutierrez continued his good form from FP1 to lie sixth-fastest in front of a large contingency of Mexican fans, whilst Sergio Perez finished down in thirteenth place.

The pecking order did not change for the final half an hour of the session as the teams began to focus on their long runs. However, Max Chilton’s session came to a premature end after spinning out at the final corner, bringing out the yellow flags and forcing a tractor to come and lift away his Marussia. Nico Hulkenberg complained over the radio that the marshals were taking too long to recover the car, but with only a couple of minutes remaining, very running time was lost.

At the front though, Red Bull continued to dominate proceedings with both Vettel and Webber putting in strong displays. With the United States Grand Prix being the only race on the current calendar that Red Bull has not won, the team will be pushing to finish the season in style by righting that wrong this weekend.

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.