Webber: P2 the maximum we could achieve

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Mark Webber believes that second place on the grid is the “maximum” that he could have achieved at Monza today following Sebastian Vettel’s domination of qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix.

Webber was his teammate’s closest challenger throughout qualifying, but he could not do enough to stop the German driver from claiming his fourth pole of the season and the fortieth of his career.

“After yesterday we thought we could challenge for the front row, but you never know and as we saw in Belgium and today, the grid can sometimes get a bit mixed up,” Webber said after qualifying. “But overall we stayed strong and have to focus on ourselves.

“The guys did a very good job; it’s not an easy track to pull everything together over one lap. The result is the maximum for the team and it was pretty much the maximum for me today.”

Webber acknowledged that Vettel’s pace was simply too good for him to compete with on Saturday, with the German driver finishing quickest in all three qualifying sessions.

“Seb has always been very strong here and he’s a tough nut to crack at this venue. I hope to have a strong race from there tomorrow.”

The Australian driver will be hoping to end his lacklustre run at Monza this weekend, recording a best finish of sixth since first racing at the circuit in 2002. With second place being his best ever qualifying result here, Webber is well-placed to record his first podium in Italy in what will be his final grand prix in Europe before he retires at the end of the season.

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.”