McLaren finishes as bottom Mercedes team in China

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Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen will have been pleased to have finally seen the checkered flag in yesterday’s Chinese Grand Prix after a disastrous weekend that saw the McLaren team leave Shanghai empty handed.

After a terrible 2013 campaign, the team had appeared to have made a big step forwards as both of its drivers finished on the podium at the Australian Grand Prix. However, since that impressive 33 point haul, Button and Magnussen have mustered just 10 points and failed to score any in the past two grands prix. On Sunday in China, Button came home in 11th place, with the rookie Magnussen two places further back.

“It was pretty difficult out there,” Button said. “It felt a little bit like qualifying yesterday, we just couldn’t get the front tyres working – they just grained.

“We’ve got a few upgrades for the next grand prix, in Barcelona, but they won’t be enough to close our performance gap to the fastest cars.”

Magnussen also had little to say about the race: “It felt like a long race, because there wasn’t much I could do out there. Our car lacks downforce – that’s its main problem. The way it’s set up, and how it feels, has always been positive; it’s just low on grip, that’s all. So, clearly, we need to work as hard as we can to create that missing downforce.”

McLaren had promised to make a big gain in Malaysia three weeks ago, with Ron Dennis predicting that the team would have cut the gap to Mercedes at the front by half a second. Instead, the British squad in fact finished as the bottom Mercedes-powered team in China behind the works team, Williams and Force India.

Button and Magnussen will be keen on responding at the Spanish Grand Prix next month, where the team should debut its first major upgrade package for the MP4-29 that could remedy some of its problems.

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.