Bottas, Raikkonen set for another battle from P2, P3 on Baku grid

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Formula 1’s pair of Finns – who have occasionally contacted each other – may be set for another intriguing battle for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET, NBCSN).

Valtteri Bottas slotted his Mercedes AMG Petronas car into second on the grid with Kimi Raikkonen outqualifying Sebastian Vettel at Scuderia Ferrari for the second time in three races. Raikkonen had the pole at Monaco and today at the Baku City Circuit he is third while Vettel is fourth.

Unfortunately for both Finnish drivers, neither was happy with their position, as Lewis Hamilton took his 66th career pole.

Bottas looked the early polesitter in Q3 before Hamilton’s stormer of a lap at 1:40.593 eclipsed him by about seventh tenths, although he improved to just 0.434 off by the end of the session.

“It was disappointing – I was going for the pole,” Bottas said in parc ferme after qualifying. “I struggled with the front left temperature. Lewis had a good lap. I didn’t. Second place is not bad.

“I think Lewis had a really good lap and I didn’t. I wasn’t quite comfortable with the tire temperatures. It was the first time we tried to go for a time in the first lap of the tires and I couldn’t get them to work as well as Lewis. I didn’t have enough grip. The run before was good, and before the red flag everything was going OK.

“In the end I’m disappointed to lose the pole position, as that was definitively the target for me today, but I’m really proud. We’ve made quite big changes through the practice sessions, we were quite lost, to be honest, in the beginning and we managed to turn it around, so for that I’m really, pleased. For tomorrow we, as a team, definitively have a great starting position and we’re going to have a good fight and try to get another one-two for the team.”

Raikkonen was 1.1 seconds off the pace in third, top Ferrari driver, and not happy to be as far back. He said he struggled with the tires as well. Both fast times were set on the Pirelli supersoft compound.

“Obviously it’s better than where I was before. But it’s been difficult compared to where I was before,” Raikkonen said in parc ferme.

“Luckily the last set was a better feeling. If you switch it on, it goes good. It depends when you switch on the tires.”

Vettel starts fourth but will look to benefit 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.