Hamilton hails third World Championship as the most special

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AUSTIN, Texas – Lewis Hamilton is starting his World Championship-winning celebration tour in the immediate aftermath of winning today’s United States Grand Prix, the win enough to clinch his third championship with three races remaining.

Despite starting second, the Englishman came through to win the race, taking the lead from Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Nico Rosberg with eight laps remaining after Rosberg ran wide at Turn 16, the entry into the triple-apex right-hander around the Circuit of The Americas Observation Tower.

It’s Hamilton third’s win at COTA in four years, and his fourth USGP win overall in five starts, having also won his U.S. debut in the final USGP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. A fourth place in 2013 was his only non-win here.

Understandably, Hamilton was at a loss for words upon his arrival to the podium, although he’d later elaborate further in a near half-hour post-race press conference.

“I feel amazing,” Hamilton told Sir Elton John, who conducted the podium interviews.

“I want to say thanks to the whole crowd, staying through the rain. I hope we put on a good show for you.”

Indeed they had – Hamilton leading a predictable podium of he, Rosberg and Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – although it was far from a predictable race in changing weather conditions.

“I can’t find the right words this second,” Hamilton said. “I couldn’t have done it without this team. They’ve been here for me the last three years. Faultless. Thank you guys for everything you do for me.”

Asked by Sir Elton what his plans were for the evening, and with John to play a show here this evening, Hamilton more-or-less invited himself.

“You throwing a party? I’m gonna be there. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” he said.

Prior to that of course, Hamilton led the top-three finishers into the press conference, draped with his British flag over his firesuit.

He began to reflect on the moment, and on the elements that defined his race.

“I hope if there is anything inspiring for today, it’s never give up,” Hamilton said.

“There were so many times I though I’d lost the race. Safety car, pitting when we did, for example. I never for one second gave up hope though.

“It’s a very humbling experience, to equal Ayrton Senna, who meant so much to me and still does today. I feel very, very blessed today.”

Hamilton noted the initial impressions of winning yet another World Championship; as noted, his third matches Senna, who he’s now two career race wins ahead of (43 to 41).

“This is the ultimate goal. You want to win in everything you compete in,” Hamilton said. “Hopefully be better than everyone else.

“Winning at least one World Championship signifies your greatness, but the people around you and the greatness of their partnership.

“I was so grateful for the first one. I told Ron (Dennis) when I was 10, someday I’d win a World Championship in one of your cars… then almost 10 years later I did.”

It’s also the first time in three titles won that Hamilton has clinched prior to the final race of the season. He’d won in Brazil and Abu Dhabi in the final race of the season.

“To be honest, the last year, last two times was really quite stressful,” he explained. “One was 17 seconds before the end of the race, something like that.

“Last year was amazing, but it took a lot out of us. It was double points and anything could have happened.

“This one feels just as special, if not more special. This one kind of tops last year for me, because it equals Ayrton. Which I never really thought I’d be able to win.

“I really didn’t think a few years ago I’d be sitting here… but I thought I’d win championships at this team. As a kid I just wanted to be World Champion. This is the greatest.”

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.