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Fernando Alonso extends McLaren F1 contract, will stay for 2018

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Fernando Alonso will remain with McLaren in Formula 1 for the 2018 season after signing a contract extension with the British team, announced on Thursday ahead of the United States Grand Prix weekend.

Alonso joined McLaren for a second stint in 2015, only to spend the last three seasons mired in F1’s midfield and towards the back of the grid due to a lack of performance from the team’s engine partner, Honda.

McLaren announced in September it would be splitting with Honda at the end of the season, linking up with Renault in a bid to try and return to the front of the pack.

Alonso was known to be seriously considering his future with the team, but with few alternative options emerging, the Spaniard opted to extend his current stint with McLaren into a fourth season.

“It’s fantastic to be able to continue my relationship with everybody at McLaren,” Alonso said. “It was always where my heart was telling me to stay, and I really feel at home here. This is a fantastic team, full of incredible people, with a warmth and friendliness that I’ve never experienced elsewhere in Formula 1. I’m incredibly happy to be racing here.

“Just as important, McLaren has the technical resource and financial strength to be able to very quickly win races and world championships in F1. Although the last few years have not been easy, we have never forgot-ten how to win, and I believe we can achieve that again soon.

“The last three years have given us the momentum to plan and build for the future, and I’m looking forward to that journey.

“I’m excited for our future together – and I’m already working hard to make it a success.”

Zak Brown, Executive Director, McLaren Technology Group, added: “I’m delighted to be able to confirm that Fernando will remain at McLaren. He has been a fantastic asset to the whole organization for the past three years, is an incredible individual and is one of the most accomplished and talented racing drivers of the modern era.

“It always made sense for us to continue our journey together.

“His commitment will allow us to further improve the attractiveness and po-tential of the wider Group, and will ensure we head into 2018 feeling in-creasingly confident that we’ll be able to take a meaningful step forward. Fernando fully understands and buys in to the direction we are taking.

“Our shareholders have ambitious plans for the whole Group, and success within Formula 1 is a central pillar of that strategy. With Fernando, there is no doubt that we have a driver who can help us achieve our goal of winning again in F1 – and, believe me, we are all keen to do that.”

Alonso has stressed his bid to become just the second driver in history to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport – comprising the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans – is a key focus in his racing future, having made his Indy 500 debut earlier this year.

Options are thought to be on the horizon for Alonso to race at Le Mans next year, with no date clashes existing with any F1 commitments.

Alonso will race alongside Stoffel Vandoorne at McLaren once again next year after the team confirmed in August it would be continuing with the Belgian as planned for 2018.

Brown hinted a deal was close in a teleconference with reporters earlier this week, and then McLaren posted this video in advance of the announcement. The team added a bit more in a further tweet.

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.