Hulkenberg has doubts over Sirotkin’s readiness

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Nico Hulkenberg doubts Russian youngster Sergey Sitorkin will be able to make enough progress in time to be fully ready for an F1 debut in 2014.

The 17-year-old has no F1 experience but is under consideration by Sauber for a race seat in 2014 after they gained backing from several Russian organisations.

“Me, I wasn’t ready for Formula One at that point,” Hulkenberg told Autosport, echoing similar comments made by Lewis Hamilton last month. “It is ambitious, maybe a bit risky, but it’s not my decision.”

Sirotkin, who turns 18 next week, would be the youngest driver ever to start an F1 race if he made his debut at the beginning of next season.

He is yet to gain his F1 superlicence, for which he requires 186 miles (300km) of running in an F1 car. But with the Young Drivers’ Test having already passed his opportunities to do so before testing for next year’s season begins are limited.

Hulkenberg acknowledged Sirotkin had little opportunity to build up his F1 experience: “He will keep on racing in Formula Renault [3.5], beyond that he could do lots of simulator running, but that isn’t real life, and Sauber does not have a simulator so that is not an option.”

Sirotkin is visiting the Sauber factory today and 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.”