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Rossi: Reflections on a momentous year of racing

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So that’s my 2015 season! Done and dusted but with a great tail wind. What a year it has been!

I finished the year second in the GP2 Series and had the privilege and opportunity to work with Racing Engineering, who’ve been an absolute blast to work with all year.

2015 also brought another important milestone and box ticked in my career; the first US Formula 1 driver to compete in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, and the first American to take part in an F1 race since 2007.

GP2 was an incredible experience this year, but I’ll also look back on 2015 in years to come and reflect on a very strong five-race F1 debut. This will rank equally alongside the GP2 races we won and the podiums we scored. Ending the year with those two achievements and boxes ticked would not have been possible without a group of people working tirelessly to make such a great year happen, so my sincere thanks to them.

As I write this, we are in the process of finalizing my 2016 plans and getting closer to a very exciting conclusion. Obviously the push is F1 and I know the job done this year is paying dividends towards that, so stay tuned on that front.

The final GP2 race weekend in Abu Dhabi was interesting, to say the least! Practice went well, as we were quick straight away and getting through the test run plan, ending the session fourth. Qualifying was not as good as we’d planned, ending the session seventh – we struggled with traffic, timing and track position and were up to fourth on the first set, then we boxed for the second set of super-softs but did not improve and had to settle for a fourth row start.

It’s one of the subtleties of racing at this level that’s hard to explain to fans. You and your engineers time it and plan it, ahead of time and during session down to the last nuance, looking for gaps and taking all the other cars’ movements into account, but then you find yourself having to lift or brake early due to a car on cool-down at the exact the point on the track when you want to be at the limit.

This can be very costly and, depending on the situation, could be hundredths or tenths of seconds, but nevertheless at this level of motorsport it is usually the difference between being up front on the grid and mid-table. Every driver has dealt with this, and none of us will ever get used to it. It’s one of the most frustrating things in motorsport, but if you can’t cope with it you don’t belong there.

In GP2, starting seventh isn’t the end of the world. You can fight for the podium and win from there. Of course you always need a good car, good start and good team strategy and for things to fall your way, like the safety cars, timing of pit stops and saving enough tires for when you need it. All these factors are what make up a winning race combination, which is why GP2 is so competitive.

For the feature race our plans went fairly well and I was quick in each phase of the race. We’d started on options, and when a virtual safety car was called for contact between Artem Markelov and Daniel de Jong we boxed for a set of primes, but unfortunately I was held in the box for six extra seconds due to pit lane traffic and the team did not want an unsafe release violation, which can cost you a drive through penalty. We finally came out of the pit stop in 18th, so we had a bit of work to do.

The period of the race when you’re making up time after your pit stop on fresh rubber is the one I most enjoy. This is an opportunity to turn in big laps and make up a lot time and places, in the gap when other cars also have to stop. Usually the car feels great, everything’s working as it should and it’s almost like the race slows down around you. It’s a great zone to be in, and this especially true at Yas Marina which has a little of everything!

It looked like we’d be in with a shot of the podium, but in the end I had to settle for fourth. That place confirmed second position in the 2015 championship and this was a very good result for me and the team. I’ve said many times what an honor it was to race Stoffel Vandoorne this year – he’s a good friend and worthy  hampion, and I’m sure we’ll be fighting again on track very soon.

With the sprint race still to come on Sunday, we kept the celebrations on hold but in the end the sprint was a bit anti-climatic. I had started fifth and was off the line well and up to fourth when the red flag immediately came out for a six car incident behind. Thankfully no one was hurt, but the safety crew could not fix the crash barriers in time before the F1 event, so the GP2 race was called off.

So that was it, the end of 2015 season and time to celebrate and enjoy sharing some very good times with the whole Racing Engineering family and at the GP2 Awards Gala that followed Sunday evening at Yas Marina Circuit.

So that’s it for now! It is time to recharge and have a couple of meals that Carlos, my trainer, would not approve of. I’ll definitely be getting some skiing in and a few weeks without travel, but then immediately 2016 will start. The accomplishments of 2015 are now in the history books and I’m only looking forward.

Wherever you watch motor racing and however big a fan you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed the insights into my life as an F1 and GP2 race driver. I’m very excited about next year, and hope you’ll be part of the journey when it starts all over again.

Thank you for your support. Have a safe and joyful holiday season!

God Bless,

Alexander.

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.