Lotus owner Lopez laments lost victory in Spain

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Lotus owner Gerard Lopez believes that the team was unfortunate not to win last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, lamenting traffic which stopped Kimi Raikkonen’s charge early on.

Raikkonen utilized a three-stop strategy at the Circuit de Catalunya in order to jump the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa during the race, but he still finished a full 9 seconds behind race winner Fernando Alonso on Sunday. However, Lopez has great faith in the team following a strong start to the season.

“We thought there was a way to win it. We lost the race right at the beginning when Fernando and Vettel were able to jump Hamilton and we got stuck a couple of times in traffic. That’s where we lost the race, and other than that, it was very good,” Lopez told Adam Cooper. “The car is super consistent, and it was fast on both tyres.”

When asked about the rest of the field, Lopez highlighted Ferrari as being the front-runners following their fine performance at last weekend’s race, and he also revealed his surprise at Red Bull’s form in Spain.

“I was a bit surprised by the Red Bulls. Spain was an important race, everybody’s going to throw what they have at the car.

“I think Mercedes we expected to be fast on one lap. The Ferrari is probably the strongest car right now. Red Bull maybe a little bit below where we expected them.”

Lotus has certainly made a good start to the season, currently sitting P3 in the constructors’ championship and Kimi Raikkonen leads their drivers’ title charge, just four points behind Vettel at the top. Lopez has every reason to be pleased with his team, and they will be keen on continuing this form into the rest of the season.

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.”