Photo: Sauber F1 Team

Charles Leclerc to run No. 16 for F1 career

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The lone full-time rookie confirmed for the 2018 Formula 1 season, this year’s Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc of Monaco, has selected No. 16 as his car number for his F1 career.

Leclerc’s No. 16 was listed on the car Alfa Romeo and Sauber revealed over the weekend. He is the first driver to have selected the number since drivers were allowed to pick their number for their career starting in 2014.

The significance is also notable because it’s only one number away from the late Jules Bianchi, one of Leclerc’s longtime friends coming up the junior open wheel ladder. Bianchi’s No. 17 was retired after he died in July 2015; the Nice, France-born driver has a street named after him in Nice, which Leclerc paid homage to earlier this year.

Leclerc is already fitting in nicely at Sauber and is fresh off testing with the team last week.

With this selection, at least one driver has selected each number from 2 to 22 with the exception of 15 since drivers could first pick their own numbers. The No. 1 is available for the reigning World Champion, though Lewis Hamilton has opted not to use it, and Nico Rosberg retired when he had the chance.

Only a handful of numbers from 23 and higher have been selected, notably Hamilton at 44, Valtteri Bottas at 77 and Max Verstappen at 33 among others.

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.