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Ricciardo hints at staying with Red Bull after Honda deal

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Daniel Ricciardo hinted Thursday that Red Bull’s switch to Honda engines in 2019 might bring him closer to extending his contract with the Formula 1 team.

With his contract expiring at the end of the year, the Australian driver has been at the center of speculation for weeks, with Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren reportedly showing interest in signing the seven-time Grand Prix winner.

But his current employer recently confirmed its long anticipated break-up with engine-maker Renault, which could ease decision-making for Ricciardo.

“(Red Bull) have committed to Honda, so they’ve kind of got all the cards on the table, so I know what I’m getting there,” Ricciardo said. “Things are starting to get to a point where I know what’s what.”

While Ricciardo refrained from giving his opinion on the Honda deal last week, he said “I see the pros with the decision” as it would mean “obviously, the chance to start something new with Honda.”

The 12-year relationship between Red Bull and Renault became increasingly strained in recent seasons, after they had racked up four straight drivers’ and constructors’ championship with Sebastian Vettel from 2010-13.

Red Bull has won just 10 races since the start of the 2014 season, when Ricciardo joined the team.

Having won two of eight races this season, in Shanghai and Monaco, Ricciardo is third in the drivers’ championship. But the distance to Ferrari’s Vettel in second place is 35 points while Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is another 14 points further ahead in the lead.

Over the last few weeks Ricciardo repeatedly denied being contacted by rival teams. Still, he didn’t rush to sign a new deal with Red Bull, either.

With its “home” race coming up this weekend on the energy-drink sponsored track and the driver celebrating his 29th birthday on race day, both the time and place would have been perfect for Red Bull to announce Ricciardo’s extended stay. But the Australian repeated he will take another “few weeks” to make his mind up.

“In a way, it’s a good thing that they have made a decision. It gives me a bit more clarity of the direction the team’s going,” Ricciardo said, adding he planned to announce his decision before Formula One goes into its three-week summer break following the July 29 Hungarian GP.

Ricciardo’s decision is the only box Red Bull still has to tick for next season, with the Honda deal sealed and the contract with its other driver, Max Verstappen, running until 2020.

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.