Hamilton delighted to qualify on the front row

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Lewis Hamilton is delighted to have qualified on the front row for tomorrow’s Monaco Grand Prix after a difficult start to the race weekend.

The British driver had felt uncomfortable with the car before qualifying, but he overcame these difficulties to finish P2 just behind teammate Nico Rosberg.

“Congratulations to Nico and the team today, a great job all round,” Hamilton said in a team statement. “It’s a big improvement for me after struggling in the practice sessions here so I’m really happy to be on the front row of the grid. I didn’t have a great first sector on my lap today but after that it really came together.”

Despite this good result, Hamilton still believes that there is room for improvement if he is to fight for his second victory in Monaco, having won the prestigious event in 2008.

“I’ve got some work to do as I haven’t felt completely comfortable in the car this weekend but I’m confident that we can have a good race tomorrow and we’ll be aiming to get the best possible result for the team.”

Mercedes have qualified very strongly so far this season, with Rosberg’s result marking the team’s fourth consecutive pole position, but they are yet to record a win in 2013. Regardless, team principal Ross Brawn is sure that some progress has been made.

“We are well aware of our fate in the last few races and we have to make sure that we are in better shape for tomorrow,” Brawn said. “I believe we have moved in the right direction and we’ll see tomorrow if those improvements are enough and we can have a good race.”

Relying the Silver Arrows can manage their tires, both Hamilton and Rosberg will have a good shot at taking the win tomorrow.

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.”