Ricciardo wins Laureus Breakthrough of the Year award

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Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was named as the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ at last night’s prestigious Laureus Word Sports Awards in Shanghai following his impressive 2014 season in Formula 1.

Ricciardo enjoyed a sensational year with Red Bull in 2014, claiming three race wins en route to third place in the drivers’ championship as he outclassed four-time world champion teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Although the start to the 2015 season has not been quite as successful for Ricciardo, the Australian picked up his first silverware of the new year by winning the award in Shanghai last night.

“It’s a proud moment in my career,” Ricciardo said. “The year was awesome, one of those years which I think was as good as it could get without actually winning a title.

“So I felt like every race weekend I left knowing I had put everything on the track and didn’t really feel like I was underachieving anything, and obviously it came with a lot of podiums and the three victories. Definitely a breakthrough in my career.”

Ricciardo fended off competition from Marin Cilic (tennis), Mario Gotze (soccer), James Rodriguez (soccer), Mikaela Shiffrin (skiing) and the Swiss Davis Cup team (tennis) to win the award.

Lewis Hamilton had been in contention for the Sportsman of the Year award, but lost out to tennis player Novak Djokovic. Mercedes also lost the Team of the Year award to Germany’s FIFA World Cup squad which won the tournament in 2014.

In Bahrain this weekend, Ricciardo’s expectations remain low after a difficult start to the season that has seen him score just 11 points.

“It sounded pretty good, finishing the first three [races] in the points, but obviously we hope for more at this stage,” Ricciardo said. “Look, we’re trying to do what we can, that’s for sure. There is progress being made. Still, obviously, we’re wanting more each race.

“Obviously there’s not much, updates-wise, that can happen in a week but from myself and the team as well, we still know there’s more potential in what we’ve got for now, and I think we can definitely try to grab that this weekend.”

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.