Michael: Magnussen should be an improvement

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McLaren’s sporting director Sam Michael provided a team perspective Friday as to why it has opted to bring on rookie Kevin Magnussen in place of Sergio Perez for 2014.

“You look and assess where your capabilities are where you think you can improve and the view internally is that we could improve by going with Magnussen,” Michael said. “Checo’s doing a fantastic job at the moment considering the pressure he’s under.

“It’s obviously a discussion that’s been going on for quite some time. It’s always going to be difficult when you make a call like that. But I think we’re in a very fortunate position at the moment with our young driver program, in that it’s very rich with talent and Kevin’s just the first of the guys in that pool.

“I’ve come across lots of drivers in my time in Formula One and when you see drivers like that come along, it’s very important that you react and make the most of those opportunities.”

Magnussen won’t have the benefit of the same amount of testing mileage as the last two rookies McLaren has taken on, Lewis Hamilton in 2007 and Kevin’s father Jan Magnussen in 1995. The senior Magnussen served as test driver during that season and came on for the Pacific Grand Prix in Aida as Mika Hakkinen had an operation for appendictis. Hamilton, of course, was groomed by McLaren as a youth and had two years worth of tests and time to learn the car prior to his debut in 2007.

Kevin Magnussen has had all of two tests, but more simulator work, and as a rookie will be thrown into a challenging environment. Michael assessed how he feels the Dane will handle it.

“I think we’ve factored all of those sort of things into what we’re doing, including the testing he’s done for us already, all the simulator work, his performance in the lower categories and any sort of work that we can do between now and the start of next season,” Michael said.

“I think with the rule change, the way you drive the cars is going to be quite different. We’ve already done quite a lot of work in the simulator on that at this point and, if anything, it probably lends itself some good opportunities for change.”

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.