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Azerbaijan set for twilight F1 race, will start as Le Mans finishes

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The European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan is set to start at 6pm local time in June just as the 24 Hours of Le Mans finishes.

With less than five months to go until Formula 1 ventures to Azerbaijan for the first time, more details about the race are becoming known including a provisional schedule.

For the first time since 2011, Le Mans will clash with a grand prix this June, preventing Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg from defending his title at the Circuit de la Sarthe with Porsche.

The FIA said previously that although it regretted the date clash, it would ensure that the race in Azerbaijan started following the conclusion of Le Mans.

Technically, this has been achieved – both the finish of Le Mans and the start of the European Grand Prix are set for 9am ET on June 19 (3pm local time in Le Mans, 6pm in Baku).

However, there will be a direct clash between the start of the 24-hour race and qualifying in Azerbaijan, with both again set to begin at 9am ET.

The weekend schedule released also reveals that the GP2 Series will be present in Baku, likely to make up for the omission of Bahrain at the beginning of the support championship’s 2016 calendar.

The organizers of the race were forced to issue a statement earlier this week responding to speculation that the event was at risk of not going ahead due to the ongoing oil price crash and a recent devaluation of the local currency.

“The devaluation of the manat will have no impact with regards to the staging of the first ever Formula One race in Azerbaijan,” Baku City Circuit said.

“When the budget for the Grand Prix of Europe was approved, it was initially calculated in US dollars. As a result, we are not expecting any changes to the current event budget.”

The race in Baku is set to be the first European Grand Prix since the 2012 edition was held in Valencia, Spain.

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.