E21 can take Grosjean to first win

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Romain Grosjean is confident that the Lotus E21 is capable of taking him to his first Formula One victory in 2013.

“We should be able to [win] but you never know what the other teams have been working on as well. That’s the tricky bit.

“We want to achieve that, for sure, but I think the most important thing is to follow your weekend step by step and not think about the win before you’ve even started the free practice sessions.”

Grosjean joined Lotus at the beginning of 2012, and despite showing good pace during his debut season, his tendency to get caught up in accidents overshadowed his results. He insists that he has matured over the winter, and the former GP2 champion believes that anything is possible this season.

“Our target is to improve from the previous season. We finished fourth in the constructors’ championship and we want to improve from there step-by-step.”

The new car, the Lotus E21, was quick in testing, and Grosjean revealed his delight with it ahead of the opening race of the season.

“The car has been well born, as we say. It is a step forward compared with last year, clearly, so I’m quite positive about the car. It looks good and it feels good to drive, and that’s all we can say at this stage. I hope I’m right.”

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.”