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Button laments yellow flags, wrong engine mode after Q1 knockout

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Jenson Button made no secret of his frustration after being knocked out in the first stage of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Saturday.

Button was left lamenting a late yellow flag period caused by Max Verstappen that forced him to back off on his final flying lap, which looked poised to secure him a place in Q2.

The Briton was also running in the wrong engine mode after the McLaren pitwall failed to tell him which setting to use for his flying laps as it normally does.

“The Q1 yellow flag in the middle sector meant I had to lift,” Button said. “Without that, I probably would have got through to Q2.

“However, I wasn’t told in which engine mode to put the car. Every time before we start a timed lap, we’re instructed over the radio to adopt a particular setting, but I didn’t get told, and I went to the wrong setting.”

Button is anticipating another tough race on Sunday as McLaren’s difficulties with new engine supplier Honda continue to blight its hopes of points.

“The car didn’t feel too bad to drive, but we needed to get everything out of it today, and we didn’t,” Button said. “You can’t make a single mistake here – even going half-a-turn out on the front wing makes a big difference.

“The race will be tough for everyone tomorrow. But as usual we’ll try our best.”

McLaren racing director Eric Boullier apologized to Button for the team’s error, admitting that it did not follow the regular procedures that are usually in place for qualifying.

“I must apologize to Jenson on behalf of the team,” Boullier said. “We have a set of procedures ahead of a qualifying lap, and we didn’t follow all of those today.

“He must feel frustrated to have lost out on his first run, and then not to have got a decent shot at it on his second. The yellow flags are a factor in motor racing, but we should have been a bit tighter with our procedures.”

Button will start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from 15th position, gaining one place by virtue of Verstappen’s grid penalty.

The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.

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.