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Bottas revels in first F1 pole, but not yet dreaming of victory in Bahrain

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Valtteri Bottas may have scorched to his first pole position in Formula 1 on Saturday in Bahrain, but the Mercedes driver is refusing to dream of a breakthrough victory in the race (Sunday, 10:30am ET, CNBC).

Bottas joined Mercedes from Williams over the winter and wasted little time in making an impression, scoring a podium on debut for the German marque in Australia.

After a disappointing display in China, Bottas bounced back in style on Saturday night at the Bahrain International Circuit, edging out Hamilton by 0.023 seconds to take his first pole position in F1.

“Yeah I’m obviously really happy. First pole in my career, my fifth season now in Formula 1 so it took a few races, but got it, and hopefully it’s the first of many,” Bottas said.

“I just want to say a big thanks to the team giving me this car to drive it on pole. We’re both starting on the front row, so I think we’ve made a really good job this weekend to focus on the evening conditions and really managed to get that lot of lap time in the slightly cooler conditions.

“Hopefully that going to help us tomorrow as well with the team.”

Bottas has not won a race since a British Formula 3 event at Donington Park back in 2011, and is refusing to get ahead of himself in Bahrain as he chases his breakthrough win.

“I and we as a team need to enjoy this for a very short period of time what we’ve done so far in the weekend. But the main thing is tomorrow,” Bottas stressed.

“There’s no point to start dreaming about anything. We have to look at whatever we can do tomorrow, work together as a team and plan a good strategy for the race tomorrow.

“For me it’s all about focusing on the race and getting the maximum out of it. Definitely a good place to start. I think as a team we can be really strong tomorrow and hopefully get that 1-2, first one of the year.”

The Bahrain Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 10:30am 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.