Final pre-season test: Team-by-team guide

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As the Formula One teams reassemble in Barcelona in time for the final four days of pre-season testing, here’s a view on each of the teams so far.

Red Bull

Red Bull have taken their usual secrecy to new heights: media were forbidden from photographing the RB9 at its launch and the team have hidden it behind screens during testing runs.

Ferrari

The F138 is clearly a better starting point than last year’s F2012. But team principal Stefano Domenciali doesn’t expect Ferrari to start on top despite some encouraging times.

McLaren

The MP4-28 looks quick out-of-the-box but Jenson Button says the team are behind with their testing programme. They had some reliability problems in Jerez and some of their planned tests took longer than expected.

Lotus

Technical problems including a gearbox problem and a telemetry glitch has limited their running but the car looks reasonably quick.

Mercedes

While Nico Rosberg has hailed the team’s progress it’s telling that Lewis Hamilton, who drove last year’s quickest car, has been more restrained in his praise.

Sauber

The C32 has covered more mileage in testing than any other car: Sauber have completed over 2,100 miles and rookie Esteban Gutierrez has 416 laps on the board.

Force India

Remarkably the team which almost won the last race of 2012 still hasn’t finalised its driver line-up for this year. Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi are in the frame.

Williams

The only team not to bring their new car to the first test. Both drivers were very positive after their first taste of the FW35.

Toro Rosso

The drivers are encouraged by the STR8, which offers more versatile set-up options than its troublesome predecessor. It’s run well, too.

Caterham

The CT03 bears a close resemblance to its predecessor and so far does not look likely to trouble the midfield.

Marussia

New driver Max Chilton did all the running in Barcelona last week, raising questions over team mate Luiz Razia’s place at the squad. All Marussia have said so far about their plans for this week is that Chilton will drive on day one.

For more on testing so far see Will Buxton’s view from the track.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”