Lewis Hamilton a fan of new Sochi Autodrom circuit

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After finishing over eight-tenths of a second clear of the field during second practice on Friday, it may come as little surprise that Lewis Hamilton has said that he is a fan of the Sochi Autodrom circuit that will host this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

The sport returns to Russia after 100 years away this weekend at the newly-built track which incorporates the complex used for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

After finishing second in FP1, Hamilton hit back in the second session to move well clear of the field, but he still believes that there is room for improvement.

“I like the new circuit,” Hamilton said. “It’s got really good grip and great corners, with a lot at medium speed. It’s good fun.

“The car has been feeling really good today. McLaren look close which is great for everyone as it should make for a decent race.

“We’ve got quite a good balance with the car so there are a lot of boxes ticked but we still have work to do to see if we can improve for tomorrow.”

Hamilton’s sentiments were echoed by his team boss, Toto Wolff, who praised the organizers for the facility they have built in Sochi.

“My compliments go to the organisers on the standard of the facility here in Sochi and this challenging new circuit,” Wolff said. “Like at any new track, the surface was very green today and we need running time for the grip levels to build up; we could see that lap times were improving all the way through both sessions.

“The conditions will probably ramp up even further through the weekend and we need to make the right decisions on set-up.”

Nico Rosberg had been the fastest man in the first session, but faded in FP2 on Friday afternoon, finishing fourth.

“The team decided to go two different ways in terms of setup,” Rosberg explained. “I took a very creative setup for my car in the second practice session, which didn’t work out.

“So we will go back to the conservative way for tomorrow, because we saw that Lewis was very quick with that.”

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.