Lewis Hamilton’s future career plan coming into focus

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MONZA, Italy (AP) Lewis Hamilton’s future career plans have come into focus following Sebastian Vettel’s decision to extend his contract at Ferrari.

Hamilton hinted on Thursday that he plans to stay at Mercedes long term, and certainly beyond when his contract expires next season.

“I plan to extend with the team, which we will do at some point in the second half of the season or toward the end of the year,” the British driver said at the Italian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s three-year extension at Ferrari was announced last weekend.

“It’s good for Sebastian that he has signed,” the 32-year-old Hamilton said. “In the plan that I have coming up, in my five or six years or whatever it is that I have left in this sport, that piece of the puzzle is now in place so it makes my decision moving forward a lot easier.”

There had been speculation that Vettel contacted Mercedes before deciding to extend with Ferrari.

Hamilton said that Toto Wolff, Mercedes head of motorsport, kept him up to date.

“It’s kind of interesting to hear sometimes who calls and who’s trying to take my seat or take the seat next door to me,” the three-time F1 champion said. “And then to see following those calls the maneuvers that happen – such as Sebastian signing.”

“I don’t know if everyone expected him to sign a three-year deal but it doesn’t really change much for me,” Hamilton added. “I know the team is fully committed to me. I’ve never picked up the phone and spoken to any of these other teams.”

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.