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Vettel: Championship bid doesn’t hinge on Australian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has played down the importance of the first race of the 2016 Formula 1 season, saying that his championship bid does not hinge on the result of the Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel led Ferrari’s revival in 2015, claiming three race wins en route to third place in the drivers’ championship behind the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Ferrari is expected to put up a greater challenge for both titles in 2016, but Vettel was cautious when speaking at the Pirelli tire test in France earlier this week.

“It’s natural that we all want to win – the team is quite big, there’s a lot of people and if you ask everyone, I think our target is to win,” Vettel said.

“We know it’s very ambitious, we know that the gap has been quite big last year. I think we did a good job over the season to come closer.

“This year we have some changes and we will have to see. Obviously the testing is crucial to start on the right foot and then we go from there.

“But Australia is one race from 21. If you win there, it’s great. If not, you try to finish as close as possible to the top step and collect as many points. And after that it’s a long year.”

Vettel completed 134 laps behind the wheel of the SF15-T on Tuesday at Paul Ricard, and said he found the test useful despite it offering little in the way of information for the new season.

“It’s always useful to drive a car,” Vettel said. “It was fun, even if, with a lot of different prototype tires, you may get different results, without knowing which tires we are testing, or if they are going to be used in the future or not.

“You can have a rough idea which tires you test and how the tires were last year, but it’s not clear what’s going to happen with the tires after this, even if for sure there are some results, but it’s too early to say.”

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.