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Bottas: Ferrari ‘outperforming us so much’ at Hungary

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Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton have a tough task facing them in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN), the final race before Formula 1’s summer break.

Not only were Bottas and Hamilton outqualified by the pair of Scuderia Ferraris, Sebastian Vettel on pole and Kimi Raikkonen in second, but they were by a significant margin.

The warning shot was fired at the start of Q3 when Bottas set what was a new track record at the Hungaroring of 1:16.631, but then a fraction of a second later Vettel threw down a 1:16.276 – nearly four tenths quicker – and the time that stood for pole position.

Hamilton didn’t put in a banker lap and could only muster a 1:16.707 on his first and only timed flier later in the session, and even that was a tenth and a half off Bottas, who improved to a 1:16.530.

Raikkonen eclipsed Bottas for second at a 1:16.444. The only bright side for Bottas, perhaps, is that he’ll be starting on the clean side of the track with the even spots on the grid notoriously dirty leaving the line in Budapest.

Bottas, who usually finds a way to be optimistic, was downcast after ending third in qualifying and as far off Ferrari as he and the Mercedes team was.

“They had the upper hand today. They have such quicker cars. They have everything right for this track,” Bottas told NBCSN’s Will Buxton on the front straight, who conducted the post-qualifying interview.

“We still have so much work to do on circuits like this. Let’s see how this goes tomorrow.”

Like at Monaco, Ferrari clearly has the upper hand, and for the balance of this season, it was important for the overall championship battle that Ferrari maintained momentum on a slower track where mechanical grip seems to play more of a role than outright horsepower.

“This weekend yes, clearly,” Bottas responded when asked if Mercedes was on the back foot. “They’re outperforming us so much. We have so much work to do with the car.

“It’ll be a long one tomorrow and the hope is that anything is possible.”

Vettel won here in 2015, but that has been Ferrari’s only Hungary win since 2004 – when Michael Schumacher won what was his 12th win in the first 13 races of that season. Ferrari’s front row lockout today was its first at Hungary since 2004, when Schumacher led Barrichello.

The Ferrari qualifying dominance today also ensures Hamilton will have to wait until after the summer break to secure a record-tying 68th career pole position, which would draw him level with Schumacher for most all-time.

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.