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F1 deciding on fate of unliked qualifying system on Thursday

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Formula One team bosses and the series’ key powerbrokers will vote on Thursday whether to adopt a new qualifying system in which a driver’s time is based over two laps instead of one.

The rolling elimination format used over the opening two races, in which the slowest driver was eliminated every 90 seconds, was universally condemned by drivers, teams, and fans due to a lack of on-track action as drivers preferred to save their tires rather than try to improve their times.

Teams advocated a return to the old qualifying system, but FIA president Jean Todt and the series commercial chief Bernie Ecclestone ruled at a meeting at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday that there would be no going back to that format as race promoters were demanding something that increased track action and drew fans to the circuit on Saturdays.

Faced with an unsatisfactory current format and no chance of a return to the old one, teams were briefed at the meeting about a proposed new format. While details were not publicly released, it was understood that a driver’s time in each of the Q1, Q2, and Q3 sectors would be based on an aggregate of their best two laps rather than one.

Any change of rules midseason requires unanimous agreement among the teams, so disagreement from any team means the much-criticized existing system will be retained for the next race in China on April 17.

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.