Force India hopes to be more of a force this weekend in Bahrain

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Sahara Force India drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg look to recapture results close to what they achieved a couple years ago for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The two teammates had their best Bahrain finishes there in 2014. Perez finished third, while Hulkenberg wound up two spots behind in fifth. It was Perez’s first podium with Force India and snapped a five-year podium drought for the team dating to the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix, when Giancarlo Fisichella finished second.

“I have some very good memories from Bahrain,” Perez said in the team’s advance release. “The race in 2014 was just fantastic when I celebrated my first podium with the team.”

Perez would like another podium at Bahrain, where he’s finished 11th, sixth, third and eighth in his four career starts there.

With his first time there in 2010, Hulkenberg has made five starts in Bahrain: 14th, 12th, 12th, fifth and 13th.

“Bahrain is a special place,” Hulkenberg said. “As a circuit, it’s very different to Melbourne: it’s not bumpy at all; it’s very smooth and it’s full of slow corners.

“There are a several overtaking spots and the whole track, with long straights and big braking zones, makes for some great wheel-to-wheel racing. It’s a track that rewards attacking, so hopefully we will see lots of action in the race.”

In this year’s season opening race at Melbourne, Hulkenberg finished seventh, while Perez was 13th.

“We’ve started the season in the right way by getting some points on the board, even though we had the potential to come away from Australia with many more,” Hulkenberg said.

“The red flag came out at the worst possible moment for our strategy and that cost us some positions, but we still managed to fight back and come away with an important seventh place: I am happy with that.”

Perez wasn’t as happy with his own outing at Melbourne.

“Australia didn’t bring the result I was hoping, for so I am targeting a better outcome from Bahrain,” Perez said. “Getting a bad start really compromised my race last time out because I got stuck in the middle of cars on different strategies and I couldn’t recover.”

Perez added, “I am confident we can be strong again this year and get back all the points I missed in Australia. There were lots of positives we can build on, such as our strong qualifying speed and race pace.”

Team Principal Vijay Mallya is optimistic of an even better showing for both drivers.

“On paper Bahrain should be a strong track for us so I’m optimistic we can deliver a similar level of performance to that which we showed in Melbourne,” he said. “We will have some new aerodynamic developments, which will add some performance to the front of the car, so we will work hard to optimize those during the weekend.”

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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.