F1 drivers to pay tribute to missing plane’s victims in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix

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Formula One drivers and teams taking part in Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix will pay tribute to the 239 people aboard missing Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370.

According to BBC.com, drivers will carry messages on their helmets and cars dedicated to the victims during the race. A minute’s silence will also be observed prior to the start of the event.

The fate of the missing plane has cast a definite pall over activities leading up to Sunday’s race, particularly since the runway from which the plane took off of is visible from the main grandstand of the Sepang track the race will be held upon.

“It’s devastating to hear about it,” Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton told BBC.com. “All you can do is pray.”

Added McLaren driver Jenson Button, “It’s good that the whole of the paddock are running tributes. It’s devastating. I really feel for all the families. We will do all we can. It’ll be difficult this weekend for all the Malaysian people.”

The plane disappeared on an overnight flight from Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, to Beijing, China. It is believed the plane may have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, where investigators and potential recovery efforts are focusing their attention.

And, of course, the fate of the plane and its passengers remain at the forefront of most Malaysian residents, which will make Sunday’s race all the more difficult.

“I’ve experienced first hand how everybody in Malaysia is thinking of families and friends,” said Nico Rosberg, who won the season-opening F1 race at Australia two weeks ago. “There are billboards and signs here with people who have put stickers up with messages on them.”

As a result of the national mourning, several festivities have been either cancelled (including a concert with Christina Aguilera and Rain), or scaled back.

BBC.com also reported that while last year’s race was just over two-thirds full (84,000 out of 120,000 seats), due to the lingering pall from the fate of the plane, Sunday’s race may be only one-third full.

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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.”