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Grosjean: Ninth the ‘perfect position’ to start in Bahrain

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Romain Grosjean believes that ninth place is the “perfect position” from which to start Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Haas Formula 1 Team became the first start-up operation to score points on debut in 14 years when Grosjean finished sixth in Australia two weeks ago.

The Frenchman followed this breakthrough result up by recording the team’s first top 10 qualifying result in F1 in Bahrain, finishing ninth in Saturday’s session.

Despite being knocked out of the Q3 slots late on by Nico Hulkenberg, Grosjean believes that ninth is actually a better position to start as it will give him a free choice of starting tire for Sunday’s race.

“I’m glad we’re not in Q3 actually. It’s a great place to start the race,” Grosjean told NBCSN.

“It’s higher than our own expectations. Talking with Guenther [Steiner, team principal] this is a big test for us. Tomorrow is a long race and difficult with the tire choices, but it’s possible to have a good time.”

All drivers that reach Q3 are required to start the race on the tire that they set their fastest Q2 lap on, while those starting ninth and lower can begin the grand prix on fresh rubber.

“I was keeping my fingers crossed to be out and be P9,” Grosjean admitted.

“So it’s the absolute perfect position, and a choice of tires.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 10:30am ET on Sunday.

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.