Hamilton hits back to edge out Rosberg in FP2

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Lewis Hamilton has hit back during the second free practice session for the Austrian Grand Prix by finishing fastest on Friday afternoon at the Red Bull Ring.

The Briton posted a fastest lap time of 1:09.542 on the super-soft tire to beat teammate Nico Rosberg into second place, having suffered a reverse result during the first session on Friday.

FP2 saw the drivers head out and post some initial lap times on the prime tire before switching to the super-softs for their qualifying simulations. Even on the harder compound, Hamilton was still on top in the intra-Mercedes battle, while Valtteri Bottas ran well for Williams in third place on the primes.

On the super-softs, Hamilton and Rosberg were dominant once again, but this time Fernando Alonso proved to be their closest challenger. After finishing third in FP1, the Ferrari driver did the same again in FP2, although he was almost a second down on Hamilton at the front.

Bottas continued Williams’ good form by finishing fourth ahead of teammate Felipe Massa. The British team certainly appears to be in with a chance of scoring its first podium finish of the season this weekend, but after his disappointment in Canada, Massa will not be banking on anything until he sees the checkered flag.

Red Bull bounced back from a disappointing first session to finish sixth and eighth, with Sebastian Vettel ahead of Daniel Ricciardo. However, on home turf, it appears that the team will struggle to bother Mercedes at the front of the field.

It may seem to be a regular summation, but once again, Mercedes is the team to beat in Austria.

You can watch qualifying live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.

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.”