Barcelona F1 Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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Following on from the first pre-season running in Jerez at the beginning of the month, Formula 1 burst back into life in Barcelona today with the beginning of the penultimate four-day test.

Testing may not be worth much in the grand scheme of things, but as the first race of the year in Australia draws ever closer, it is difficult to not read a little bit more into the results and the pecking order that appears to be shaping up.

That said, the man who topped the timesheets on Thursday was certainly not the one most were expecting. Pastor Maldonado produced a fastest lap of 1:25.011 to displace Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the timesheets with one hour remaining in the day, continuing Lotus’ good start to life with Mercedes engines.

The day was somewhat truncated, with four red flags being shown. Maldonado was responsible for two of them, albeit due to two minor technical problems, whilst Felipe Nasr was involved in the other two incidents. The collision with Susie Wolff was something out of the ordinary, but thankfully both drivers were okay.

Here’s today’s complete Paddock Notebook from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

So that’s day one of the second test over and done with. Once again, Ferrari finished inside the top two, but it was Pastor Maldonado who ultimately took home the spoils by finishing as the fastest driver. Lotus certainly has made a big step forwards over the winter following its switch to Mercedes power units for the new season, and it comes as little surprise that both drivers are far happier with the E23 Hybrid than its predecessor.

The big talking point on Thursday in Barcelona was the on-track incident involving Sauber’s Felipe Nasr and Williams’ Susie Wolff, which took the entire paddock by surprise. In testing, incidents such as these are unheard of, and with no live TV footage to work from, all we saw at first were two cars left stranded in the gravel.

Both drivers gave their side of the story, and both claimed that they weren’t to blame. The only difference was that Wolff had obtained a video of the accident which showed that Nasr was at fault. Wolff was slowing to let Nasr past, and arguably should have stuck to the inside of the corner. Instead, she was on the outside, but stayed on her line and gave Nasr plenty of room. The Brazilian duked his car to the right at the last moment though, causing the crash.

Wolff hasn’t had much luck when it has come to F1 test sessions, suffering issues in Great Britain and Germany last year. However, she was very positive and mature about the incident, and said that she will get another test session in the coming months, most probably following the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

That aside, it was a very regular day of testing. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen put in the highest number of laps en route to sixth place in the final standings, whilst Daniel Ricciardo showed good signs of pace for Red Bull. He was surprised to hear that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had gone second on the medium tire, but has every reason to be pleased with his own display.

McLaren had a day to forget, though, as a problem with the MGU-K on Jenson Button’s power unit meant that he could not complete more than 21 laps. The issue is expected to happen once again tomorrow when Fernando Alonso gets behind the wheel of the MP4-30, and it is unlikely that the team will complete any real running until Saturday now.

Finally, spare a thought for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton could complete just 11 laps on Thursday until he had to stop, having come down with a fever. Nico Rosberg is due to run tomorrow, but he has reportedly hurt a nerve in his neck that could sideline him tomorrow. Either way, the German marque continues to push on and remains the team to beat.

That’s it for day one in Barcelona. Be sure to return to MotorSportsTalk for complete coverage of day two tomorrow.

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.