© Getty Images

Calendar clash scuppers Hulkenberg’s Le Mans defence plans


Nico Hulkenberg’s hopes of defending the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche next June have been scuppered by the updated Formula 1 calendar that the World Motor Sport Council released on Thursday.

The original provisional calendar safeguarded the Le Mans weekend, as has been commonplace in the past few years, allowing Hulkenberg to return to the Circuit de la Sarthe and defend his win in 2016.

Hulkenberg played an instrumental role in winning Porsche its first overall Le Mans victory since 1998 in June, racing alongside Earl Bamber and Nick Tandy in the no. 19 car.

However, the updated F1 calendar now sees the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan move forward by one month, forming a somewhat trying back-to-back with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.

As a result, the race in Baku now clashes with Le Mans, which looks set to prevent Hulkenberg from defending his title alongside Bamber and Tandy.

It is worth stressing that, for the time being, the F1 schedule for 2016 remains provisional, and is unlikely to be firmed up until the last WMSC meeting of the year in December.

In a report from motorsport.com, a Porsche insider said that the German marque would wait until the calendar had been approved before finding a replacement for Hulkenberg, leaving the door open for the Force India driver.

Said insider also suggested that any replacement for Hulkenberg would already be working within the Porsche setup, as opposed to an outsider such as IndyCar driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who is due to test the team’s 919 Hybrid LMP1 car soon.

The ‘Le Mans or F1’ decision will not be one that fans are left with, though, as the FIA stipulated in its statement that the grand prix in Azerbaijan would start after the 24 hour race had finished.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
1 Comment

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.