Starting grid for the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix

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As the Formula 1 paddock was left reeling by the news that Sebastian Vettel will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the 2014 season, qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix became something of a subplot to the main story of the weekend.

However, Nico Rosberg managed to keep his head as others tried to understand just what had happened on Saturday morning by securing his eighth pole position of the season at Suzuka, edging out teammate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second at the top of the timesheets.

Hamilton may have lost out, but he was happy to secure P2 on the grid after crashing out in FP3 and leaving his mechanics with a lengthy repair job. He did not require a gearbox change as many predicted, meaning that he does not have a grid penalty for tomorrow’s race.

Williams went under the radar to lock out the second row of the grid, with Valtteri Bottas finishing third ahead of Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso qualified fifth for Ferrari as he begins to comes to terms with his likely departure from Maranello.

FROM THE STEWARDS’ OFFICE

  • Pastor Maldonado has fallen foul of the new engine regulations after using his sixth internal combustion engine (ICE) of the season, breaking the limit of five. He was handed a 10-place grid drop, but after qualifying 17th, can only serve half of it to leave him 22nd. He will carry the other five places over to the Russian Grand Prix next weekend.
  • Jean-Eric Vergne’s disastrous weekend got worse on Saturday when Toro Rosso also used a sixth ICE on his car. After qualifying 11th, he will start the race from 20th, one place ahead of Maldonado.

STARTING GRID FOR THE 2014 JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams
4. Felipe Massa Williams
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8. Jenson Button McLaren
9. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
10. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
11. Sergio Perez Force India
12. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
13. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber
15. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
16. Romain Grosjean Lotus
17. Marcus Ericsson Caterham
18. Jules Bianchi Marussia
19. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
21. Max Chilton Marussia
22. Pastor Maldonado Lotus

You can watch the Japanese Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET.

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.