Lotus not blaming Grosjean for struggles

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Lotus say Romain Grosjean should not be blamed for the problems he is experiencing with his car at the moment.

While Kimi Raikkonen has scored a win and a second place in the first three races of the season, Grosjean is yet to finish inside the top five.

But Lotus technical director James Allison says: “The truth is that it’s certainly not Romain causing the problem.”

“Romain is fast, smooth and good at looking after tires, however we have not yet managed to give him a consistent car that lets him bring his talent to bear.

“It’s not him; it’s that we haven’t got it quite right for him yet and what seems to be clear from Kimi’s weekends is that the car is a tricky little beast to get just right. We have managed that with Kimi in two of the three races and we need to make sure we’ve giving Romain all the opportunity to shine as well.”

The problem was “very frustrating”, Grosjean admitted. “I would be lying if I said the car is exactly where I want it and we are having quite an adventure to get the setup and feeling from the car how we want it.”

He ended final practice in China with the 18th fastest time but rallied in qualifying to put the car sixth on the grid. After that he slipped back to ninth in the race.

“We struggled all weekend to get the balance right,” said Grosjean. “It felt a lot better in qualifying but in the race I just couldn’t find the performance.”

“I made a good start, climbed a few places and was sitting close behind Kimi for a short while, but then the tires just fell off the cliff and I dropped right back. As the race went on I ended up getting stuck in traffic which obviously didn’t help, but I still have some work to do to try and find more from the car.”

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.”