Sauber rue “weekend to forget” after double retirement

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Sauber branded the Canadian Grand Prix a “weekend to forget” after both their drivers failed to take the checkered flag.

Nico Hulkenberg collided with Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde while lapping him and both sustained race-ending damage.

And although Esteban Gutierrez was among the classified finishers he crashed while exiting the pit lane seven laps from home. He had been trying to complete the race with a single pit stop but found the tire degradation was too severe and had to make a late pit stop.

Head of track engineering Tom McCullough said the team had expected a difficult weekend: “The circuit’s characteristics were going to make it a hard day for our car.”

“Ultimately it was a double DNF, which is very disappointing. On the strategy side we attempted a one stop with Esteban and a two stop with Nico, which was the base strategy today.

“But ultimately the tire degradation and wear were too high for Esteban, so we had to convert to a two stopper late in the race and unfortunately he had the incident exiting the pits.”

Van der Garde was ruled to be at fault in the collision with Hulkenberg, the stewards noting he had taken a lap to let the Sauber driver pass him. “Lapping can be troublesome, but these guys are racing too and have things happenings in the race, the same as us,” said Hulkenberg.

“I lapped Giedo van der Garde and braked. At first I didn’t feel anything until I came out of the corner and realized the car wasn’t going straight, so we decided to stop.”

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.”