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In closed cockpit debate, Hulkenberg says “it should be open”

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While Nico Hulkenberg has spoken out about closed cockpits coming to Formula 1 before, he’s reaffirmed that stance this week as 2016 testing kicks off this week and with the 2017 regulations needing to be finalized soon.

A “halo” protection semi-enclosure, which would shield the drivers’ eyes and helmet area with a clear visor but still open entry way, is considered one of the solutions going forward.

Speaking to Autosport during the initial test at Barcelona, Sahara Force India’s Hulkenberg cited tradition and history as the primary reason why he’d want to keep the cars fully open.

“It’s a personal thing. I just don’t like it [a closed cockpit]. For me it should be open,” he told Autosport.

Hulkenberg made his sports car debut last year with Porsche, racing the third Porsche 919 Hybrid coupe with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber at FIA World Endurance Championship races at Spa and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. But he was ruled out of a return for 2016 once the European Grand Prix weekend at Baku was placed on the same weekend as Le Mans.

Not a ton of drivers have spoken out publicly either way about closed cockpits for open-wheel cars, although Sir Stirling Moss and Juan Pablo Montoya have rejected the idea.

AJ Allmendinger, who raced in Champ Car from 2004 to 2006 before a partial season return to IndyCar in 2013, is the most recent driver in North America to denote his preference for closed cockpits, telling assembled NASCAR reporters in Daytona last week the only way he’d return to open-wheel racing is with a closed cockpit.

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.