McLaren keeping options open for first Honda test

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says that the team is keeping its options open for when to test with a Honda power unit for the first time.

It was confirmed last year that the Japanese motoring giant would be returning to Formula 1 in 2015 as a power unit supplier for the British team after six years away.

Its return was met with widespread approval in the F1 community, given that it rekindles the famous McLaren-Honda partnership from the late 1980s and early ’90s.

Together, they won four world championships in five years, with Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost’s rivalry being a hallmark of the partnership.

McLaren’s current deal with Mercedes runs out after the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi this November. However, there is a two-day F1 test being held at the circuit in the week after the race, and it was thought that McLaren could debut the Honda engine there.

Honda supremo Yasuhisa Arai was quoted as saying that this would not be possible, meaning that the team would have to wait until the first 2015 test in Jerez next February, but Boullier is keeping his options open.

“Regarding the first tests of a McLaren-Honda powered car, there is no decision yet about when and where,” the Frenchman explained to the media in Monza on Saturday.

“This is still open and it is true that there was a comment [from Arai], but we will not give a definite answer now because we do not know exactly, but it is very likely that it will be before Jerez as well.

“It is true that the safe side is that we will be in Jerez with a McLaren-Honda car, but we keep the door open so that if everything is matching our schedule we can run it earlier.”

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.