Webber: Vettel has protection within Red Bull

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Mark Webber has made no secret of his disappointment after losing the Malaysian Grand Prix to Sebastian Vettel late in the race, claiming that he was told to ease off.

“After the last stop the team told me the race was over,” he said. “We turned the engine down to go to the end.”

With their cars in first and second place, Red Bull asked their drivers to hold position in order to secure the result. However, it would appear that Vettel defied the team, and went in pursuit of the victory which he claimed after 56 laps in Malaysia. Webber made it clear that he felt Vettel had acted against the interests of the team

“The team made a decision which we always say before the start of the race is how it’s probably going to be: we look after the tires and get the cars to the end.

“In the end Seb made his own decisions today and will have protection as usual, and that’s the way it goes. I’m disappointed with the outcome of today’s race.”

Red Bull have been accused of favoring Vettel in the past, with Webber being told on many occasions to back off so as to not pose a threat to the German driver. Helmut Marko, a Red Bull advis0r, has repeatedly supported Vettel over Webber, which has gone a long way to causing disharmony within the team. With their relationship at an all-time low, Red Bull have a lot of work to do if they are to stop this inter-team battle affecting their championship aspirations.

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.”