Fernando Alonso unconcerned by starting position

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Fernando Alonso has explained how he is less concerned about an accident starting P9 for the Belgian Grand Prix tomorrow following the incident at the beginning of last year’s race at Spa-Francorchamps.

In 2012, Alonso had started sixth but became caught up in a large accident at turn one caused by Romain Grosjean. The incident ended the race for Grosjean, Alonso, Sergio Perez, Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton, with the culprit also receiving a one race ban for his misdemeanour. Despite being further back in the pack this year, Alonso is less worried about a repeat of this incident.

“It would be more of a problem if we started fourth, third, second,” the Spaniard said after qualifying. “This is the position that I arrived last year at the first corner, more of a problem then.

“Starting ninth, maybe I can take it a little bit more easier and gain the positions that the people gained last year through our accident.”

However, Alonso did call on his colleagues to be sensible through the first corner, with the tight La Source hairpin being a hotspot for accidents.

“Hopefully there is no accident tomorrow, we can have a clean race. The first corner here is extremely tight, there is always some contact, there is always some front nose that’s flying away. You don’t do Eau Rouge after that.”

Ferrari endured another disappointing qualifying session with Alonso finishing ninth, one place ahead of his teammate Felipe Massa. The rain shower during Q3 hindered many teams, but Mercedes and Red Bull managed to time their laps perfectly in order to make the most of the change in the weather, and subsequently locked out the front row. However, Ferrari proved in practice that they are in the running this weekend, and Alonso will be hoping to produce another good performance at Spa tomorrow in order to keep his championship hopes alive.

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.”