Starting grid for the 2014 Chinese Grand Prix

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Come rain or shine, Mercedes remains the team to beat in 2014 after Lewis Hamilton scored his 34th career pole position yesterday in a wet qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

The British driver managed to tame the tricky conditions brilliantly on Saturday to finish six-tenths of a second clear of nearest rival Daniel Ricciardo. With this result, Hamilton broke the record for pole positions by a British driver in Formula 1, moving clear of two-time world champion Jim Clark and into fourth place on the all-time list.

However, it was not all good news for Mercedes as Nico Rosberg made two uncharacteristic errors in Q3 to cost himself a shot at making the front row. The German driver was forced to settle for fourth place on the grid, and he was far from pleased on Saturday afternoon. The Silver Arrows were split by both Red Bulls as Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel qualified second and third respectively.

Fernando Alonso will line up behind Rosberg on the grid alongside former Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa. Williams has finally found the solution to its wet weather woes, with Valtteri Bottas also making the top ten. The Finn will start behind Massa in seventh.

The big casualties of Q2 were Kimi Raikkonen (11th), Jenson Button (12th) and Kevin Magnussen (15th), whilst Bahrain podium finisher Sergio Perez could only finish in 16th. It was clear that the wet conditions shook up the pecking order and gave more than a few drivers a headache.

FROM THE STEWARDS’ OFFICE

  • Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado was due to serve a five place grid penalty after flipping Esteban Gutierrez during the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago. However, he failed to set a time in qualifying due to an engine problem suffered during FP3 on Saturday morning.
  • Therefore, the stewards had to grant permission to Maldonado to race as he technically failed to make the 107% time required to qualify. However, he did complete a lap that was well within this time during first practice on Friday. He will therefore be allowed to start the race from last position.

2014 CHINESE GRAND PRIX STARTING GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6. Felipe Massa Williams
7. Valtteri Bottas Williams
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
9. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus
11. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
12. Jenson Button McLaren
13. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber
15. Kevin Magnussen McLaren
16. Sergio Perez Force India
17. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
18. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia
20. Marcus Ericsson Caterham
21. Max Chilton Marussia
22. Pastor Maldonado Lotus

You can watch the Chinese Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2:30am ET.

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.”