© Haas F1 Team

Haas’ F1 honeymoon ends with ‘horrific’ race in China

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Haas’ Formula 1 honeymoon came to an end in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez endured difficult races at the Shanghai International Circuit.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas saw his new F1 operation become the first start-up team in 14 years to score points on debut in Australia when Grosjean finished sixth.

The Frenchman followed this up with a fifth place finish in Bahrain, giving him plenty of confidence heading to China this weekend.

However, setup issues blighted Grosjean all weekend long, leaving him to ail to a lowly 19th place finish on his 30th birthday.

“It was a horrific race,” Grosjean said. “The start was terrible when [Marcus] Ericsson turned into me and got my front wing.

“From there we had the safety car and I thought, ‘OK, we still have a chance to do something.’ But the balance in the car was nowhere near good. I don’t know what happened.

“Somehow, it’s positive that we had such a difficult race, because we can analyze what we did wrong, what we did right and what we could have done differently.

“From there, we can come back stronger. It’s a difficult one after the two first races. Not the birthday I was hoping for.”

There was however another ‘first’ for Haas in China as it saw both cars make it to the end of the race, with Esteban Gutierrez finishing 14th.

Gutierrez retired in Australia and Bahrain, so was pleased to take the checkered flag in a grand prix for the first time since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but was hamstrung by an issue with the DRS on his car.

“It was fun out there today and to finish the race was a big step. I think we can now build on this performance as we prepare for Russia,” Gutierrez said.

“I really want to thank the guys because they’re doing a great job. The pit stops were fantastic, really consistent. Unfortunately, we didn’t have DRS, so it was difficult to overtake, but overall it was a solid race.

“We now need to finish inside the points and that’s what we’ll be focusing on, so I’m really looking forward to the next one.”

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.