Raikkonen, Sutil and Ricciardo rue same strategy error

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Kimi Raikkonen, Adrian Sutil and Daniel Ricciardo had a disappointing end to the British Grand Prix as they were overtaken by a string of their rivals in the final six laps.

The trio did not make a pit stop during the final Safety Car period to take on fresh rubber. The strategic error meant they were vulnerable to drivers who had pitted, leaving Sutil and Ricciardo to be passed four times while Raikkonen lost three spots.

Raikkonen even asked his Lotus team at the time whether they should pit but was told it was already too late. Afterwards he said it was “absolutely the wrong call”.

“I tried to hold on at the end of the race, but with tires that were maybe 20 laps older than the others’ it was impossible to keep them behind,” he added. “It’s a shame as the race went pretty well until then; we had good pace and looked set for a pretty easy P2, but this is racing sometimes.”

Ricciardo said it was a “missed opportunity to score more points” for Toro Rosso. “Today we were quicker than the Ferraris so to finish behind them, particularly Massa who had a tire problem.”

Sutil, who spent 25 laps in third place but finished seventh, said it was “disappointing to slip back so close to the finish”.

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.”