Hamilton draws first blood in Brazilian GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton sent out an early warning shot to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by topping the timesheets in first practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday at Interlagos.

Despite being involved in a minor road traffic accident earlier this week and arriving in Brazil one day later than planned, Hamilton showed few signs of rustiness as he easily gapped the field.

The Briton recorded a best lap time of 1:13.543 to finish half a second clear of Rosberg at the top of the order, leaving the German driver to settle for P2 ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Both Hamilton and Rosberg were continually working on their setups throughout a rather routine first practice session, with both having minor off-track moments as they found the limit of grip around Interlagos.

Ferrari once again established itself as being ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes as Vettel finished just one-tenth of a second behind Rosberg in third place. Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth, four-tenths of a second further back from his teammate despite taking a trip through the gravel late on.

Complete with a newly-upgraded power unit from Renault, Red Bull made a good start to the weekend as Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat ended the session P4 and P6 respectively. Valtteri Bottas finished seventh for Williams ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen in eighth.

Former Interlagos pole-sitter Nico Hulkenberg ran well to finish ninth ahead of Pastor Maldonado, who rounded out the top ten in FP1 for Lotus. Jolyon Palmer deputized for Romain Grosjean in the sister E23 Hybrid, lapping less than two-tenths of a second shy of Maldonado to finish P12 behind Carlos Sainz Jr.

McLaren had a relatively average session as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso ended FP1 13th and 16th respectively, split by Felipe Nasr and Sergio Perez.

Home favorite Felipe Massa was unable to match the pace of Bottas in the sister Williams car as he finished 17th ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson. The Manor duo of Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens propped up the order yet again, finishing over four seconds off the pace.

FP2 for the Brazilian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 11am ET on Friday.

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.