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Bottas wins pole as Leclerc crashes in Azerbaijan GP qualifying

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Valtteri Bottas will start on the pole position for Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix after posting the fastest lap in a wild qualifying session that saw Charles Leclerc fail to advance to Q3 after hitting the outside wall in turn 8.

The Ferrari rookie was a favorite for the pole, having set the fastest time in all three of the weekend’s practice sessions. Leclerc’s luck quickly disappeared when he brought out a red flag by hitting the same wall that Robert Kubica hit in Q1. Both drivers walked away from their accidents.

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“No excuses. I’ve been useless. I will push to have a better tomorrow,” Leclerc tweeted following his accident in Q2

“Sorry to all the people supporting us and even more to the whole team that deserved so much better.”

Leclerc’s misfortune was all that Mercedes duo of Bottas and Lewis Hamilton needed to sweep the front row once again.

Bottas took the pole with an elapsed time of 1:40.495, with Hamilton (1:40:554) starting second in Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“It’s a nice feeling to get [pole] on the last lap,” Bottas told reporters following qualifying.

“Ferrari have been really quick. It’s all about the small margins. I managed to hit the sweet spot.”

Sebastian Vettel (1:40.797) will start Sunday’s Grand Prix from the third position, with Max Verstappen (1:41:069), Sergio Perez (1:41:593) and Daniil Kvyatt (1:41:681) starting fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Leclerc will start Sunday’s race from the 10th position.

Full qualifying results and times are below:


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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.