NBC F1 announcers, producer revel in Monaco GP history, storylines

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Being in the right place at the right time couldn’t have been more appropriate when NBC Sports Group announcers Leigh Diffey and David Hobbs took part in a Wednesday morning teleconference from Monaco.

Let’s let Diffey, who will handle play-by-play duties on Sunday’s telecast, tell the story of a very busy Wednesday morning in preparation for Sunday’s Formula One Monaco Grand Prix:

“(There’s been an) amazing buzz here today. We’ve been waiting for it for a very long time. The now two-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton has finally signed a contract to stay at Mercedes Benz AMG. He’s done a three-year deal in excess of $100 million. Literally, the call just came from the drivers press conference.

“Lewis, in kind of Hollywood style, walked in with a big gold necklace and gold sunglasses. I guess (he) looked like somebody who signed a more than $100 million contract. It was so fitting to have that announcement here in the place where he lives, just the pizazz that surrounds Lewis Hamilton now. That’s one of the many story lines we’ll be bringing you this weekend.

“Obviously the overwhelming one is his rivalry with his teammate Nico Rosberg who happens to live in the same building as he does here in Monaco. Of course, Nico has his own story going with three wins. Without going on too long, there’s a lot of excitement that’s so fitting for it all to be happening here in Monaco.”

This is the third year that NBC will televise the Monaco Grand Prix live. Viewership of NBC Sports Group’s coverage of F1 is up nearly 10 percent thus far this season.

NBC Sports Group motorsports producer Rich O’Connor spoke about how special both televising the event – as well as its unique location – has been for both the network and himself.

“I’ve been involved with various forms of motorsports for over 15 years now,” O’Connor said. “(I) have worked the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500. This is my third Monaco Grand Prix.

“I remember walking away from the first one we did a couple of years ago. It’s just one of those events that truly lives up to all the hype that goes into it. It’s an amazing scene over here.

“It goes on for four plus days. It’s just an incredible event. We’re pleased to be a part of it. What we try and do is we try and give as much sense of place to the telecast, tell the story of the race, because it truly is a very special event.

“When you walk around the streets here, walk a lap, it’s pretty incredible what this sport has done on the streets of this small city for a very long time.  The history goes on and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Sunday is the biggest day in racing in the world each year. It starts with the Grand Prix, then the Indianapolis 500 and ends with NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600.

NBC Sports Group F1 Analyst and David Hobbs truly particularly appreciates the history of the Grand Prix.

“Obviously the racing itself here is quite extraordinary,” Hobbs said. “This track was first raced on in 1929, then after the war in 1950 when the modern day Grand Prix started, they started here, and they’ve had one ever since.

“The track is pretty much (the) identical layout to what it was back in 1929. They modified it a bit 20 years ago to go around the new swimming pool. But other than that it’s exactly the same.”

This race also brings out not just the average F1 fan, but the well-heeled as well.

“I went to a luncheon at the new yacht club today,” Hobbs said. “British Racing Drivers Club had a luncheon there. As I walked back, there’s a row of boats, every one of which must be worth at least $50 million. Just seeing the supplies delivered to those boats for the weekend is quite extraordinary.

“Boxes and boxes of Moet Chandon champagne, all the best drink in the world you can buy. This is one of the few tracks, all these people, they can sit on their boat. And if they’re on the tail end of their boat, they are literally 30 feet from the track, one of the fastest parts of the track. … The big question on everyone’s lips is can Nico Rosberg be one of the drivers to win this race three times in a row.”

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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.