Mercedes make biggest gains since 2012, Williams lose most

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Having been the fifth-quickest team on average last year Mercedes have leaped to the front of the field on pure performance in 2013.

An analysis of the fastest lap times set by all the teams at every track on the calendar so far this year shows Mercedes set the quickest time at eight out of ten races. More often than not they delivered on that potential, setting seven pole positions so far.

On average Mercedes were just 0.05% off the quickest lap time set at every race so far this year. Red Bull are next quickest, 0.3% off, and there’s little to choose between Lotus and Ferrari who have both been 0.66% off the pace on average.

McLaren, who were the quickest team over a single lap on average last year, have slumped to sixth-quickest in terms of pure speed, even falling behind Force India.

But Williams have lost even more performance since last year. They have been almost 2.5% slower over a lap than the pace setters, gaining 1.5% since last year.

The table below shows how far away each team has been from the fastest lap time set at each race weekend this year, as a percentage, and how that has changed since last year:

Team 2013* 2012 Difference
Mercedes 0.05 0.87 -0.82
Red Bull 0.337 0.38 -0.043
Lotus 0.656 0.68 -0.024
Ferrari 0.657 0.75 -0.093
Force India 1.37 1.16 +0.21
McLaren 1.487 0.18 +1.307
Toro Rosso 1.608 1.82 -0.212
Sauber 2.014 1.15 +0.864
Williams 2.467 0.96 +1.507
Caterham 4.25 3.49 +0.76
Marussia 4.322 4.83 -0.508

*First ten races

See the full breakdown of how close to the pace each team has been at each track

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.”