Marko: Sainz Jr. “the natural choice” for Toro Rosso

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Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko has revealed that an impressive showing at the end-of-season test in Abu Dhabi secured Carlos Sainz Jr. a seat in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso for 2015.

It was confirmed on Friday that Sainz Jr., son of rally legend Carlos Sainz, would be racing for Toro Rosso next season alongside 17-year-old Max Verstappen, forming the youngest driver line-up in the history of F1.

Toro Rosso has traditionally been a proving ground for future Red Bull drivers, with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat all racing for the team before stepping up to the brand’s main Red Bull Racing team.

Sainz won the Formula Renault 3.5 championship with ease earlier this year, but was still left in a four-way fight for the Toro Rosso seat. However, Marko revealed that an impressive showing in a test for Red Bull in Abu Dhabi this week helped the management to make up its mind.

“Carlos has been with the Red Bull Junior Team for a long time,” Marko said. “He’s had some ups and downs, but he convinced us by winning this year’s World Series title, and especially doing so with a record of seven wins. Nobody in the history of the series has matched Carlos in that regard. He’s matured a lot in the last two years.

“Of course, we were waiting to see how the championships were going, and then the test in Abu Dhabi in the Formula 1 car was the thing that really confirmed to us he was the right man for the seat.

“He had a very successful test this week. He did 100 laps, the speed was good and the technical feedback was good. He’s done everything we expected, so I’d say he was the natural choice.”

Sainz’s promotion does mean that Jean-Eric Vergne will leave Toro Rosso after three years at Faenza, with a test role at Williams reportedly a possible option for the Frenchman.

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.