Vettel calls third place “a very good result”

Leave a comment

12 months ago, finishing in third place might have been bitterly disappointing for Sebastian Vettel, but today the defending world champion was delighted with the result in qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix.

Once again, Mercedes locked out the front row in qualifying with Nico Rosberg edging out Lewis Hamilton to claim his third pole position of the season, while Vettel finished over half a second further back. Nevertheless, the Red Bull driver is delighted with the result.

“It was the maximum we could do,” he said. “We were very close with those behind, half a second behind the Mercs, but then four cars were within four to five hundredths of a second of each other, so I’m happy to be the quickest of those.”

Just 0.05 seconds separated Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo down in sixth, suggesting that last year’s Canadian GP winner may have a fight on his hands if he is to complete the podium this weekend.

“Strategy could be a bit of a surprise tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see what happens but Williams is strong here and the Mercedes powered cars will be looking forward to the straights,” Vettel explained. “I will try to stay as close as I can to the front two and get some tow. If we have a chance to attack them, then we should go for it.”

Although a win may be out of the question for Vettel, a second podium finish of the season will undoubtedly be his target. Red Bull is struggling with straight line speed, but should he put in a repeat performance from qualifying today, he will be in with a very good chance of getting on the podium tomorrow.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”