Lotus confident of their chances in Barcelona

Leave a comment

After up-and-down qualifying efforts in the first four races, Lotus came through with better “Q” form on Saturday at Circuit de Catalunya as Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean — who both hit the podium last time out in Bahrain — placed fourth and sixth respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network/NBC Sports Live Extra).

Naturally, Raikkonen (pictured), who comes to Barcelona 10 points back of championship leader Sebastian Vettel, isn’t letting himself get hyped up about the performance on Saturday. But he wonders if the Mercedes front row of pole sitter Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will be able to finally turn their one-lap mastery into something more.

If they can’t, the Finn and his other main rivals may be in prime position on Sunday.

“You can’t really say on Saturday what will happen; you just have to make a good start and then see what you can do,” Raikkonen said. “We’ve got two fast Mercedes ahead of us and we’ll have to see how strong they are over a full distance. I’m sure the Ferrari and Red Bull will be competitive, so like any race we’ll just do our best and see where we end up.”

A mistake on his flying lap in Q3 caused Grosjean to originally qualify seventh this morning, but he was elevated to sixth following a grid penalty for Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. Lotus has done well in taking care of their tires this season, and the Frenchman is banking on that to help him get another solid result.

“We saw a lot of degradation during Friday’s [practice] sessions and today, it was a bit warmer, so with the changing conditions tyre management will again be key,” he said. “Our car is quite good in this aspect; it has been well designed and prepared by our engineers to preserve the tires, so we’ll see what happens and hope to find the best possible strategy.”

Watch tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix online and on your mobile device.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”