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Hamilton: Car feels perfect ahead of Japanese GP

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Lewis Hamilton says that his Mercedes W06 Hybrid cars “feels perfect” heading into tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

After being running off the pace during last weekend’s race in Singapore and eventually retiring, Hamilton arrived in Japan setting his sights on a second win at the historic Suzuka Circuit.

In qualifying on Saturday, a mistake on his first Q3 lap proved costly as a red flag period caused by Daniil Kvyat’s accident prevented any of the drivers from completing another run, leaving Hamilton second on the grid for tomorrow’s race behind Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

However, Hamilton remained upbeat after qualifying, praising Mercedes for its preparations ahead of the race weekend.

“The car feels perfect this weekend,” Hamilton said. “My engineers did a fantastic job and I enjoyed the battle with Nico. He did a great job and it was exciting today.

“This is a track where you’re constantly fighting to gain more and more; the last lap started so well and I was up by turn seven but the red flag came out in the end. It was a big crash but fortunately Daniil walked away.”

Hamilton is anticipating a tough race on Sunday against Rosberg, and believes that making a good start will be key if he is to claim a second win at Suzuka.

“Tomorrow is going to be hard; it depends on the conditions,” Hamilton said. “The start will be crucial as you can’t follow closely here and it will be hard to pass but I will give it my best shot.”

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.