Maldonado fastest again on penultimate day of second test

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Pastor Maldonado continued his impressive form in F1 pre-season testing on Saturday by topping the timesheets for Lotus ahead of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

The Venezuelan driver finished as the fastest driver on the first day of testing in Barcelona, and managed to repeat this feat when he returned to the car on Saturday by posting a fastest lap time of 1:24.348.

The third day of running in Barcelona saw teams work on their long-run race simulations and qualifying pace, with the super-soft tires being used for the first time in testing so far.

Toro Rosso youngster Verstappen had been the man to beat for much of the morning session, but he ultimately had to settle for second place as Maldonado went three-tenths of a second faster halfway through the afternoon running. His day then came to a premature end when his STR10 car ground to a halt at pit exit with 20 minutes remaining.

Lewis Hamilton completed his final running of the test for Mercedes despite still not feeling 100% following a fever earlier in the week. The defending world champion finished third in the final standings, 1.7 seconds down on Maldonado after setting his fastest time on the medium compound tire.

After missing the morning session for Sauber, Marcus Ericsson enjoyed a productive afternoon to complete 51 laps and post a time good enough for fourth place in the final standings. The Swede finished ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, whose day started with a bizarre spin on his very first lap, bringing out a red flag.

Following in the footsteps of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat managed to complete a full race simulation on Saturday and over 100 laps in total. Although he could only finish sixth, the young Russian got plenty of mileage under his belt in the RB11 and will hope to continue this on Sunday.

Williams’ day was less about pace and more about pit stop practice. Felipe Massa took part in the morning session, completing 55 laps before handing the reins over to Valtteri Bottas. The Finn only recorded a flying lap time in the final five minutes of the day, finishing down in ninth place.

It was a difficult Saturday for McLaren, though, as the problem that had cut short Jenson Button’s test on Thursday reared its head once again. A problem with the seal on the MGU-K in the power unit caused him to stop out on track in the morning, leaving the team with a lengthy repair job.

Although Button did eventually get out again, he only finished with 24 laps on the board, some 1.8 seconds behind Force India’s Pascal Wehrlein who finished eighth for Force India.

Tomorrow will be the fourth and final day of running at the second test, with the final pre-season running kicking off in Barcelona next Thursday.

Barcelona Day 3 – Final Classification

1. Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:24.348 (104 laps)
2. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:24.739 +0.391 (129)
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.076 +1.728 (101)
4. Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:26.340 +1.992 (53)
5. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:26.407 +2.059 (105)
6. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 1:26.589 +2.241 (112)
7. Felipe Massa Williams 1:26.912 +2.564 (55)
8. Pascal Wehrlein Force India 1:27.333 +2.985 (81)
9. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:27.556 +3.208 (49)
10. Jenson Button McLaren 1:29.151 +4.603 (24)

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.