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Ricciardo, Verstappen excited by new Baku challenge

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Red Bull Racing drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are relishing the opportunity to race at a new circuit when Formula 1 ventures to Azerbaijan for the first time later this month.

The European Grand Prix returns to the calendar for the first time since 2012, being held on a fast street circuit in Baku on June 19.

The first test run was completed in a GP3 car last week, with an onboard video being released by the Baku City Circuit on Friday.

“I’m excited to go there because it’s a new track so it’s going to be a challenge for everyone, but the fact that it’s a street circuit is really cool,” Ricciardo said.

“I’m pretty optimistic that the city itself will be quite good fun. I’ve seen some pictures of the city and it looks cool – it sort of reminds me of Budapest a little bit, so let’s see, I’m pretty excited to go there.”

“After Canada we’re heading to Baku. My dad has raced there back in 2012 [in a GT race] and I’ve watched the races online and some parts of the track are pretty similar,” Verstappen added.

“He was pretty positive about the whole city in general saying it’s a nice place to go so I’m looking forward to it.

“The track looks very interesting because it has such a long straight for a street circuit which will be difficult for the wing setting because on a street circuit you want lots of downforce but with such a long straight you have to find a good compromise.

“Baku is new for everyone. You start from zero which I always like, and it’s always good to discover new countries and new tracks.”

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.