Red Bull still unhappy with tires despite wins

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Red Bull continue to insist the current generation of F1 tires are too aggressive despite their successful start to the season.

They have won two of the first four races of the year, lead the constructors’ championship by 16 points and have Sebastian Vettel in the lead of the drivers’ championship by ten points.

But team principal Christian Horner told Autosport after yesterday’s race: “I think the tires are still too on an edge.”

“Needing to four-stop in a race is I think a bit too extreme. There are other teams that look like they have bigger issues than Red Bull with their tires, but you need to speak to them to ask their opinion.”

Both Red Bull drivers completed the race with three pit stops. Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button were among those who had to pit four times, while Kimi Raikkonen and Paul di Resta stopped just twice.

Formula One’s official tire supplier Pirelli says Red Bull’s view is not widely supported. Before the race it claimed eight of the eleven teams had urged them not to make changes to the tires.

Pirelli changed the tire allocation for Bahrain before the race, making it more conservative. It will hold a meeting in Milan tomorrow to discuss how the tires have performed so far this year and whether further changes need to be made.

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.”