Photo courtesy of Carlos Sainz Jr. twitter page

F1: Carlos Sainz Jr. to replace Alonso at McLaren

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WOKING, England (AP) Carlos Sainz Jr. will leave Renault to drive for McLaren in Formula 1 next year as a replacement for Fernando Alonso.

McLaren said it signed the 23-year-old Spaniard to a “multi-year” deal without giving further details.

“I’ve been a McLaren fan for as long as I can remember. It’s a great name in the sport with an incredible heritage,” Sainz Jr. said. “The list of drivers that have raced for McLaren over the years are among the heroes of Formula 1. Fernando is of course one of them, so it’s particularly special that I’ll be taking his seat.”

Alonso, a two-time F1 champion, said Tuesday he was leaving F1 at the end of the season after 32 wins, 22 pole positions and finishing F1 runner-up three times.

There is speculation that McLaren will enter the Verizon IndyCar Series with Alonso as one of its drivers. Alonso ran the Indianapolis 500 last year and was in position to win the race until his engine failed. Alonso also ran the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, in which Alonso was part of the winning team.

Sainz Jr. is the son of two-time world rally champion Carlos Sainz. He will likely race alongside Belgian driver Stoffel Vandoorne, although McLaren has yet to confirm its driver lineup.

McLaren chief executive officer Zak Brown has high hopes for Sainz Jr.

“We’ve been assessing him for some time now and rate him very highly among the next generation of young talent,” Brown said.

There has been a flurry of recent activity in F1, with Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull to join Renault next year.

Ricciardo was widely expected to sign a new contract with Red Bull and his move to Renault – where he will drive alongside Nico Hulkenberg – effectively pushed Sainz Jr. out of the French team.

It also led to speculation Sainz Jr., who came through the ranks with Toro Rosso, Red Bull’s feeder team, could swap in for Ricciardo.

Instead, the vacant Red Bull seat could be taken by promising French driver Pierre Gasly, who has impressed for Toro Rosso this season.

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.