Gutierrez focusing on tire management in Spain

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Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez believes that tire management will be key at next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix as he looks to pick up his first points in Formula One.

Gutierrez has recorded a best result of 12th so far this season, but a difficult Bahrain Grand Prix weekend saw him finish behind Caterham’s Charles Pic. However, he is sure of a good result relying the Sauber C32 is easy on its tires.

“As the first of a series of European races, I think it is going to be an exciting event and I’m looking forward to that,” Gutierrez said in a team statement.

“The track is quite demanding, especially the last sector. Tire management will be crucial here, and, especially during a qualifying lap, you need to nurse your tires in the first two sectors in order to get a clean third sector. You must make sure the tires still have good grip when you approach the final corners of the lap, including the chicane.”

The Circuit de Catalunya is a track that Gutierrez knows well after two of the winter tests were held there, and he will be hoping to put this experience to good use.

“The first time I raced in Barcelona was in 2008. I know the track and during the winter tests I was also able to experience driving a F1 car there.”

Gutierrez’s F1 baptism has been rather disappointing, failing to match the form of teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Although the C32 car has its problems, the Mexican driver will need to score some points in the next few races if he is to vindicate Sauber’s decision to take him on for 2013.

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.”