A tidy Thursday for Valtteri Bottas and Williams

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Valtteri Bottas believes there’s still room to improve for Williams after today’s test work at Bahrain International Circuit, but overall, the second-year Formula One driver was pleased.

Bottas was second-fastest on the chart with a lap at 1:36.184 – almost a full second behind the pace-setter from Sergio Perez, but part of a day that saw him run the most laps out of anyone with 128.

“It’s been another good day for us,” he said. “It was nice to get the whole run plan done. We didn’t have any issues all day, so well done to all the team for getting the car running so well. We have a lot of data to analyze tonight after doing some aero work this morning and a race distance and set-up work this afternoon.

“We did some very interesting tests and there are still plenty of things to improve, so we’ll keep pushing.”

Bottas’ to-do list on Thursday had a little bit of everything according to Rob Nelson, the team’s chief test and support engineer.

“We started the morning by testing some aero components, all of which correlated well with what we were expected from the wind tunnel,” he said. “We then did a race simulation this afternoon including laps to the grid and everything that goes into a race and that also went well. We then completed our program for today with some new tire work for Pirelli.

“Overall, it’s been a really good day completing 128 laps.”

Felipe Massa will step into the FW36 tomorrow for the Grove-based outfit.

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.”