Button: A better feeling at McLaren in 2014

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Jenson Button has explained how there is a much better feeling within McLaren in 2014 as the team looks to bounce back from its worst season since 1980 this year.

In 2013, neither Button nor teammate Sergio Perez managed to finish on the podium, with the team’s best result coming in the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix where Button finished in fourth place.

However, for 2014, there have been wholesale changes at Woking. Perez has been replaced by Danish rookie Kevin Magnussen, former team principal Martin Whitmarsh has been axed and replaced by ex-Lotus chief Eric Boullier, and perhaps most importantly, Ron Dennis has returned as CEO after five years away.

Ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Button explained to the media in Melbourne how there is a different feeling at the team this year as a result of these changes.

“I would be very disappointed if we find out we are in the same situation as last year,” the 2009 world champion explained. “There is a much better feeling in the team and the car itself feels like a pretty good race car, so things look promising.”

Throughout testing, McLaren produced some good performances, and the team appears to be at an advantage by virtue of its Mercedes power unit. As a result, Button is hoping that he can return to the top step of the rostrum this year and win his first race since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix.

“Whether we are quick enough to win here, I don’t know,” he said. “There were two teams that were really fast in testing, and we weren’t one of them.

“But we have brought upgrades to Australia that hopefully will take us close to the front. We are definitely expecting to win races this year.”

This weekend’s race also marks the first since the passing of Button’s father, John, whose presence will be sorely missed in the paddock this 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.”