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Hamilton: “I’m in the best place I’ve ever been”

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Lewis Hamilton heads to this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in the best place he has ever been psychologically despite trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the Formula 1 championship standings.

Hamilton started both of the first two races of the season from pole position, but poor getaways from the line caused him to drop down the order. Meanwhile he’ll have a different challenge this weekend, with a five-spot grid penalty assessed for a gearbox change.

The Briton recovered to second in Australia and third in Bahrain, meaning he arrives in China this weekend trailing Rosberg by 17 points after he claimed successive victories.

“It’s not been a smooth start to the season for me, so to be in the championship position I’m in right now is actually pretty positive,” Hamilton said.

“If you can have two bad races and still come away with two podiums, that bodes pretty well. I’ve come back from worse, that’s for sure!”

Hamilton said he is unconcerned about the deficit to Rosberg, saying he feels comfortable with himself and that little will change that.

“People keep asking me if I’m worried, if there’s a downward trend emerging. But I’m feeling the complete opposite,” Hamilton said.

“There are no real flaws in our procedure and how we’re working, so I know it’s going to come good. On a personal level too, I’m in the best place I’ve ever been psychologically. There’s very little, if anything at all, that can penetrate that.

“There’s a long, long way to go, so I’ll just keep working as hard as I have been. Now we go to China for the next battle. It’s a track that’s been good to me over the years, with five poles and four wins, so hopefully this race can be the turning point.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live across NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.

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.