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Haas F1 prepares for final run of flyaway races with updates

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For Haas F1 Team, with low expectations and the challenge of flyaway races at the start of the season, the bar was exceeded with the team’s miraculous start. Romain Grosjean’s sixth place in the team’s debut at Melbourne, followed by fifth in Bahrain and eighth in Russia has netted Haas 22 of its 28 points.

But in the European season, Grosjean has only scored once, and the entire team’s been 11th way too much for their liking. Grosjean was 11th last time out in Monza and teammate Esteban Gutierrez has seemingly been perpetually 11th; the young Mexican has four 11th-place results this season, just shy of a World Championship point.

Team principal Guenther Steiner said the team will miss the convenience of its on-site unit but also is ready to tackle the remainder of the calendar, which is all flyaway races. After Singapore, races in Malaysia, Japan, the U.S., Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi follow to wrap up the team’s inaugural season.

“It’s nice to have your own equipment with you,” Steiner said in the team’s pre-race advance. “You know where you are going and don’t have to change every weekend, but then again, it’s just part of our job to always deal with what we are given. All of the supplies we take to flyaways we ship in sea containers, so it’s all of our stuff. It’s just in a different building and it needs to be set up. Our trucks and hospitality unit will be serviced and repaired and they’ll come back out in the springtime.”

Some updates are coming to the Haas VF-16 chassis for Singapore – the team’s last ones for 2016 – and Steiner is hopeful the tweaks will see the team back in the points, ending its recent run of 11th-place finishes.

“I think we’re at a good point in finding solutions and finding the balance of the car,” Steiner said. “We are bringing updates to the car in Singapore which, hopefully, will help us go faster. The midfield is so close and we are just at the end of it. I think it’s all about execution. Just a little bit more and we will get in the points.

“I would say we are the sixth- or seventh-best team. I think we opened up a gap to the people behind us in the competition speed-wise, but Force India and Williams are still going strong in front of us and we are battling with McLaren, so it’s just a very tight midfield.

“Front wing, modifications to the floor and the brake ducts. We’re aiming to reduce corner sensitivity so the car is more consistent, and enhance aerodynamic performance and overall efficiency.

“We finished developing this year’s car completely more than two months ago. These changes came from wind tunnel data and it took a little bit of time to develop the parts. We took our time so we are better prepared for next year. This is the last update for the 2016 car.”

Steiner said ending the run of 11th place results would be a massive step forward for the team. Haas currently sits eighth in the Constructor’s Championship, 17 points behind Scuderia Toro Rosso and 20 behind McLaren, with those two teams potential targets the rest of the year.

“The frustrating thing is finishing 11th five times. You’re almost there, but you’re not there,” he said.

“Eleventh is the first spot out of the points. Again, frustrating, but you know you are not far off and you are doing well. The 11th position has been earned by merit. We didn’t luck into it five times. We qualified once in the top-10 and made it to Q3 in Italy, so I think we are encouraged, but still disappointed that we don’t have more points.”

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.