Renault wants to build success around driver with ‘emotional leadership’

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Renault Formula 1 chief Frederic Vasseur wants to build the French marque’s future success around a driver with “emotional leadership” as speculation about its 2017 line-up continues to swirl.

Renault returned to F1 as a constructor after six years away in 2016, pairing ex-McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen with 2014 GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer.

After taking over the financially-ailing Lotus operation at the end of last year, Renault has been focusing on rebuilding so far in 2016, scoring just six points in the opening 12 races of the season.

Speculation is rife about Renault’s planned driver line-up for 2017. Sergio Perez has been linked with a move away from Force India, while 19-year-old Esteban Ocon is also tipped for a seat following a half-season stint with Manor.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Vasseur said Renault was looking for a driver around whom the team could be built, citing examples such as Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

“If you look at the success stories of the past, success was always built around a driver,” Vasseur said.

“Schumacher and Ferrari, Vettel and Red Bull, Lewis and Mercedes, and also Alonso and Renault in the past – so the driver is important.

“A driver is not only about performance, but about being capable of leading a team.

“Right now we have more or less a thousand people in the team, if you take Viry and Enstone together, and that needs some sort of emotional leadership – and that is the job for a driver!

“We need a driver who is super-motivated and able to super-motivate everybody else.”

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.