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Haas F1 drivers downbeat after rough home qualifying in Austin

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Haas Formula 1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez were left downbeat after a rough home qualifying session for the American team in Austin, Texas on Saturday afternoon.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas will see his F1 operation race in the United States Grand Prix for the first time on Sunday, having joined the grid at the beginning of the season.

Gutierrez and Grosjean entered qualifying at the Circuit of The Americas hopeful of repeating their double-Q3 appearance in Japan two weeks ago.

However, Grosjean failed to make it past the first stage of qualifying, finishing 17th in Q1. It marked the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix in April that both Haas cars had not made it through to Q2.

“We’re missing downforce and we’re paying the heavy price. We just don’t have enough,” Grosjean explained to NBCSN after the session.

“Low speed is very diffiuclt for us. We had some pieces fall apart yesterday. Today was a good summary of what was yesterday. On back foot from the beginning. Didn’t have the grip.

“Yeah, we should be good on top speed. But the pace of the car is not better than where we are.

“It’s not looking so good for tomorrow.”

Gutierrez managed to make it into the second stage of qualifying, but could only finish 14th-fastest as he also cited numerous difficulties over the USGP weekend so far.

“Obviously hasn’t been an easy start to the weekend,” Gutierrez told NBCSN.

“I couldn’t run my new front wing. There was a crack on the wing. Not able to repair it. We had some certain kind of disadvantage.

“We didn’t think about the result, just pushing the best as possible. Today we did. But we didn’t have tools for Q3.

“We did the best with what we have. I was putting all my energies into qualifying.

“We need to focus. We need to hope for an opportunity.”

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.

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.