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Webber surprised elimination F1 qualifying got second chance

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Mark Webber is surprised that Formula 1’s decision-makers opted to give the much-criticized elimination qualifying format that debuted in Australia a second chance for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The addition of quickfire eliminations to the existing Q1/Q2/Q3 structure in Australia proved disastrous as it only worsened the problems of not having enough cars on track and pole being decided early.

Team bosses provisionally agreed on the Sunday of the race to drop the new qualifying format for Bahrain this weekend.

However, the failure of the F1 Commission to unanimously agree on what style of qualifying should replace it meant that the Australia format will remain for the race at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Ex-F1 driver and FIA World Endurance Championship winner Webber admitted he was surprised the new format had not been scrapped, and believes it will be no better the second time around.

“I thought we were leaving Melbourne in good shape with a decision to go back to a system which was working pretty well,” Webber told British newspaper the Daily Mail.

“But that’s not the case and we are back to the Melbourne scenario which even at its best it will struggle to equal what we had.

“For me the beef I’ve got is we are still focusing on the driver that’s on the bubble or the driver that’s slow trying to get into that session.

“Now with all due respect we are focusing on Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez or young Esteban Gutierrez, now that’s fine. But we’ve also got to be focusing on the laps the big boys are doing to form the first few rows of the grid.”

Webber believes that the best qualifying format for drivers was the old one-hour open track session that saw drivers head out whenever they pleased, although they were restricted to 12 laps.

“The best one that suits the drivers doesn’t always suit the commercial rights holders and the best one I had was four sets of tyres and a one hour session, and those sets of tyres didn’t have to be used for the race either,” Webber said.

“So many things have changed since then. And we still need to keep explaining the sport. We have to say there are ramifications from a qualifying session that hurts tomorrow’s race. It’s just all talk.”

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.