Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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The third and final pre-season F1 test got off to something of a quiet start in Barcelona today as the teams evaluated the updates that will appear on their cars in Melbourne.

In contrast to some of the running we saw in Barcelona last week, very few of the teams could be completely happy with their days. Williams’ Felipe Massa topped the timesheets and managed over 100 laps, but Red Bull, McLaren and Mercedes all encountered problems on Thursday.

A problem with the MGU-K on the Mercedes W06 Hybrid limited defending world champion Lewis Hamilton to just 48 laps in total, but he made good use of them to finish third with yet another impressive time on the medium compound tire. Once again, it appears that the advantage lies with Mercedes in Barcelona.

Yet again, McLaren hit trouble in testing as the MP4-30 continued to present problems. This time, it was the power unit that was at fault, requiring a replacement after a hydraulic leak on Jenson Button’s car. Although such issues are common with a new engine, the team must be getting increasingly nervy given that it has three days of track time left before the first race of the year in Australia.

Rounding up all of today’s action in Barcelona, here’s the F1 Paddock Notebook.




Enter Williams?

Williams has been the dark horse of winter testing so far this year. The British team was yet to truly unleash the FW37 in anger, instead choosing to focus on pit stop practice – a weak spot in the past – and its long-run pace. Today though, Felipe Massa sent out a statement of intent by topping the timesheets on the soft tire. Although the team appears to be behind Mercedes still, it will certainly give the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari to think about as they plan for the battle for second place in the constructors’ championship this year.

Yet more trouble at McLaren

After a turbulent first test in Barcelona last week, McLaren turned up at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Thursday with renewed vigor in the hope of putting in the laps and ironing out any remaining problems with the Honda power unit. In the end, the team managed just seven laps as a hydraulic leak warranted a complete change of the engine on Jenson Button’s car, meaning that he was unable to make up for the time that he lost last week. We may have expected there to be problems at McLaren in pre-season, but few would have thought there would be quite this many. Time is ticking at Woking.

Updates aplenty, and even a paint job?

The final test in Barcelona is by far the most indicative of the pecking order as the teams apply upgrades to their cars that will remain for the first race in Australia. Mercedes sported a new sidepod design on Thursday, whilst Toro Rosso applied a new nose which received a thumbs-up from Carlos Sainz Jr. However, Ferrari went one step further and appeared to subtly change the color of its car. With most of the teams opting to focus on making sure the updates were working accordingly, there was little in the way of a battle at the top of the timesheets, making for a rather relaxed day in Barcelona.

Mercedes proves its not bulletproof

Heading into the new year, Mercedes made clear that its priority was reliability. The W05 Hybrid was by far the best car in F1 last year, and yet it failed to win three races (two due to on-car problems, with Spa being the exception). The early signs in 2015 were good as the W06 began to put in the laps on day one at Jerez, and yet today the team did hit trouble. Following in McLaren’s footsteps, Mercedes suffered an MGU-K failure of its own on Thursday, costing Lewis Hamilton his afternoon running. Although he wasn’t too downbeat, the Briton will have been disappointed to see his penultimate day of pre-season testing end in such fashion.

Setting the record straight

Following on from Fernando Alonso’s accident on Sunday, McLaren CEO Ron Dennis held a media briefing on Thursday to set the record straight. He clearly outlined the facts surrounding Alonso’s crash and quashed all rumors of a cover-up or conspiracy, confirming that the Spaniard did lose consciousness briefly during the accident but was not concussed. Although the details still remain unclear, the main thing is that Fernando is okay. Dennis expects the Spaniard to race in Australia, but time will tell on that one.


We’ll be back tomorrow with all of the latest news, reports and features from Barcelona as pre-season testing continues.

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.