Valtteri Bottas claims first ever podium finish in Austria

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Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first ever podium finish in F1 at the Austrian Grand Prix today, finishing in third place behind Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

The Finnish driver started the race in second place behind teammate Felipe Massa, but the Williams drivers were unable to hold the Silver Arrows back as Mercedes claimed its sixth one-two finish of the season at the Red Bull Ring today.

Bottas did not roll over in the face of Mercedes’ dominance, though. After losing second place to Rosberg off the line, the Finn claimed the position back at turn two with a fine move on the German driver. He then pushed on and came out of the pits between the two Mercedes drivers, behind Rosberg, having passed Felipe Massa in the stops.

Hamilton passed Bottas during the final round of pit stops, after which Williams focused on seeing the checkered flag and recording its first podium finish of the season.

“Really really happy, difficult to put it into words really,” Bottas said on the podium after crossing the line. “Just really thankful for the team, for giving me this car.

“It’s been a long wait for us since last year and many, many years at Williams, now it’s so much better. The race was exactly what we needed at this point: clean, nice, everything went like planned really.

“The car was good for podium this time, and I’m just so happy.”

The Finn has come close to finishing on the podium on a number of times this season, but today he finally broke his duck and secured his first top three finish since making his F1 debut at the beginning of 2013.

Pole-sitter Felipe Massa could only come home in fourth place despite starting from pole position, but the team will still be elated with the overall result after a difficult few years in Formula 1.

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.”