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Hamilton quickest in Spain FP1 as Alonso, Vettel hit trouble

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Lewis Hamilton made a flying start to the Spanish Grand Prix weekend by topping the timesheets for the opening Formula 1 practice session at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas arrived in Barcelona armed with a number of updates for their W08 car, with the hope of eking out an advantage over Ferrari after a tight battle through the opening four races.

Hamilton and Bottas pulled out almost a second on the Ferrari pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, with the three-time champion setting a fastest time of 1:21.521.

Bottas finished just 0.029 seconds shy of his teammate in second place, with Raikkonen a further nine-tenths of a second adrift. Vettel’s best lap was over a second slower than that of Hamilton at the top of the timesheets.

Vettel was fortunate to finish so high up after suffering a problem on his car early in the session that forced him to park his car up at the end of the pit lane. The German was able to be wheeled back to the Ferrari garage so he could get back out on-track.

There were worse fortunes for McLaren and home favorite Fernando Alonso, who completed just two corners before an oil leak caused his car to snap sideways and spew plumes of smoke, acting as the latest issue at the start of a trying season for the driver and the team. The Spaniard reportedly left the circuit and has returned to his hotel in Barcelona.

Red Bull’s updated RB13 car looked strong in FP1 as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took fifth and sixth respectively, while Haas managed to get both of its cars into the top 10. Kevin Magnussen was seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean in eighth, although the former’s session was cut short after a stoppage with seven minutes remaining.

Nico Hulkenberg finished ninth for Renault ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr., who was the lead home driver in 10th place for Toro Rosso.

Second practice for the Spanish Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Friday.

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.