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Boullier: McLaren boosted by Button confirmation

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier believes that the confirmation of Jenson Button for the 2016 Formula 1 season will act as a massive boost to the team heading into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

The revived McLaren-Honda partnership hit a new low two weeks ago in Japan as both Button and teammate Fernando Alonso failed to score any points, with the latter taking to the team radio to publicly vent his frustration with his engine.

Since then, speculation about Button’s future has been cleared up as he has been confirmed for the 2016 season, partnering Alonso once again, plus new sponsor Chandon has entered a new partnership with McLaren.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s race in Russia, Boullier explained how he felt both announcements would offer McLaren a great deal of motivation amid continued struggles with the MP4-30 car.

“After the challenges and emotion of Suzuka, it’s been a very important week for the McLaren-Honda team,” Boullier said. “We’ve announced a new partner for the 2016 season and beyond, Chandon, and confirmed that Jenson will be continuing to race with us next year.

“Both of these announcements are incredibly motivating for the whole team, and we go to Sochi with renewed enthusiasm and excitement.

“Last year’s Russian Grand Prix was an unquestionable success, and the organisers worked very hard to put on a well-organised event in front of packed grandstands of passionate fans.

“We had a strong weekend there last year, and, while we know the limitations of our package, we are continuing to work tirelessly on our reliability and performance to achieve the best result we can.

“There’s still a long way to go until the end of the season, and every weekend counts as an opportunity to learn, develop and apply our knowledge and experience to next year’s car. Sochi will be no different.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra 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.