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Wolff: F1 misses ‘the odd hand grenade’ from Ecclestone

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff says the paddock misses “the odd hand grenade” thrown by former ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone since the takeover of the series by Liberty Media.

Ecclestone’s long-running stint as F1’s CEO came to an end in January when Liberty completed its $8.8 billion takeover, installing American executive Chase Carey as the sport’s new chief.

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of Liberty’s first full season at the helm, with its approach differing greatly from that of Ecclestone.

Numerous changes have been made, including a greater investment in marketing and infrastructure, as well as more obvious alterations such as a new F1 logo, set to be unveiled after today’s race.

Asked about the changes felt in F1 over the past year, Wolff said that the paddock missed Ecclestone’s more direct approach and off-the-cuff remarks, with Liberty taking a different, more long-term approach to its management.

“12 months ago Bernie was around. We miss the odd hand grenade flying through the paddock, but this is new times and what we need to do is support the new owners and the management to grow Formula 1,” Wolff said.

“I wouldn’t want to predict what will be in 12 months from now. There are some things that have been kicked off, some good, some less so to us, but most importantly we are all stakeholders of this fantastic sport.

“Coming back in 12 months I would like to wish that this sport is growing in audiences, growing in fan appeal and that’s basically it.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner echoed Wolff’s comments, saying the fruits of Liberty’s current efforts would begin to show in the coming years.

“As Toto says, many things have changed. This time last year Bernie was still running the show, and obviously in January the business was sold and a new management structure came into place,” Horner said.

“I think what’s been quite interesting and quite dynamic about that is that there has been a steep learning curve for the new guys involved but they have embraced ideas and concepts.

“They’ve come with a very fresh, unbiased approach and while they have been going through a learning phase, a building phase over the last nine or ten months, a lot of things that may seem trivial have changed – just how we deal on a day-to-day basis.

“I think what is going to be fascinating is to see the lessons that been made this year, the infrastructure that’s been put in place, the people that have recruited, how that’s going to affect future years.

“Because it’s not going to be just next year, it’s going to be the next three to five years.”

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.