Bottas and Williams cast in Abu Dhabi spoiler role from second row


Williams’ Valtteri Bottas has qualified third once again to round out the season in Abu Dhabi (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra). The Finn has now done so in four of the final five Grands Prix, and thus been in the top three in nine races this season.

Either Bottas or Felipe Massa could play spoiler to the Mercedes’ teammates respective World Championship hopes if either was to get between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton into second place.

“It was a nice quali. We got a really good lap in the end,” Bottas said. “It was not easy to beat them, so it’s good to be third and fourth again.”

Bottas, though, was doubtful that he or Massa will be able to get in-between the Mercedes, citing their pace advantage not just on one-lap pace, but long runs as well.

The Williams-Mercedes second row lockout is the team’s third straight and fourth in the last five races.

For Bottas, it’s about returning to the podium for the first time since Russia and moving back to fourth in the standings – a place he lost last race at Brazil due to belt issues affecting him during a pit stop.

He enters the weekend three points behind Sebastian Vettel in fourth and two behind Fernando Alonso in fifth. Provided Bottas finishes ahead of both of them in the points, he should return to that fourth place position in the championship.

Williams can’t catch Red Bull for second in the Constructor’s Championship and should hold onto third over Ferrari.

Williams holds a 44-point lead over Ferrari, and will retain third provided Ferrari doesn’t score at least 50 points via a third and fifth-place result, and Williams fails to score at all.  It’s unlikely to happen but thanks to double points, it’s possible.

Bottas has five podium finishes this season and looks for his sixth Sunday evening.

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.