Horner: Too early to decide driver line up

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Christian Horner has reiterated that Red Bull will not be making a decision about its driver line up until the summer break, despite speculation linking many drivers to Mark Webber’s seat at the team.

Webber has appeared to be on his way out of Red Bull ever since the multi 21 fiasco at the Malaysian Grand Prix, which saw teammate Sebastian Vettel make a pass for the lead against team orders. Drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen have all been linked to his seat, but Horner is happy to take his time over a decision.

“We’re only five races in and just a quarter of the season through this championship,” the team principal told Sky Sports.

He also added that Webber could yet be retained by the team.

“Our decisions regarding drivers will be made in the summer and Mark, if he’s delivering and motivated and has the desire to continue, of course a driver that we know and achieved so much with us we’ll consider very, very closely.

“But no decisions will be made about drivers until later in the summer.”

Rumors have been circulating stating that Webber could walk away from F1 at the end of the season when his contract expires, favoring a move to endurance racing. It is clear that, in Horner’s mind at least, the door for Mark Webber at Red Bull is not yet shut. However, there is no question that a good performance in Monaco next weekend would go a long way to prolonging his F1 career.

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.”