Hamilton happy to prove Mercedes critics wrong

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Lewis Hamilton said it was “nice to prove people wrong” after finished fifth in his first race for Mercedes in Australia.

Hamilton’s move to Mercedes drew mixed responses when it was announced in September last year.

Hamilton said: “It has been everyone, particularly all the ex-drivers, a lot of them commenting and saying that it was the worst decision ever, saying: ‘he’s going to finish nowhere, they are going to be nowhere’.

“And then they contradicted themselves, going the other way, they don’t know what they are talking about.”

Among the elder statesmen of British motor racing to question Hamilton’s decision was Stirling Moss, who raced for the team in 1955.

“Personally I don’t think it was too clever to leave McLaren but we’ll see,” said Moss in October.

“When I had the chance back then I grabbed it because I thought they were the best team at the time. Nowadays I think other teams are better.”

In January three-time world champion Jackie Stewart said Hamilton’s switch to Mercedes was “a risk”.

“McLaren are in the business of Formula One. Major carmakers come and go. There’s a risk if the Silver Arrows are not successful, it’s just a five-minute board decision [to cancel the program].”

Hamilton lined up third on the grid for his Mercedes debut, behind the Red Bulls. His former team McLaren’s cars lined up tenth and fifteenth.

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.”