Max Verstappen quickest in tight final Bahrain GP practice

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Max Verstappen rallied following a tough Friday to lead the final Formula 1 practice session ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Verstappen lost running on Friday after hitting debris on-track, but responded with an impressive qualifying simulation late on that saw him post a best lap of 1:32.194.

The time was enough to give Verstappen top spot by one-tenth of a second ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finishing a further four-tenths adrift in P3.

The unrepresentative conditions in FP3 – the session is held much earlier in the day than qualifying or the race – prompted many to limit their running, with a flurry of late qualifying laps injecting some life into final practice.

Valtteri Bottas was able to rise up to fourth for Mercedes, 0.004 seconds shy of Vettel, edging clear of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who was fifth in the second Ferrari.

Felipe Massa finished sixth for Williams ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was caught out by a high tail-wind on a lap, while Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Renault. Toro Rosso rounded out the top 10 with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat.

The session largely went by without incident, the only stoppage coming after a crash for Romain Grosjean at the exit of Turn 4 that sparked a short red flag period.

Qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app and via live stream from 11am ET, before being shown tape-delayed at 12:30pm ET on NBCSN.

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.