FIA claims standing restarts have full support, but Kaltenborn is skeptical

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FIA race director Charlie Whiting has revealed that the controversial standing restarts idea for 2015 was suggested and supported by the teams, saying that he has “rarely seen such enthusiasm for a new idea”.

The World Motor Sport Council confirmed last week that following a safety car period in 2015, the cars would assemble on the grid and have a standing start much like we see at the beginning of a race. This is intended to add more excitement to a race and add to the show for fans.

Despite it receiving a backlash in the media and among fans, Whiting defended the idea and said that it was in fact put forward by the teams.

“What must be remembered is that this was a suggestion from a team,” he explained on Thursday. “I put it to the other teams and they all agreed that it was a very good idea. In fact, I’ve rarely seen such enthusiasm for a new idea.

“The idea is based on the rationale that the start is the most exciting part of the race in the view of most people and if you can have another one it would also be extremely exciting. This idea was embraced by all the teams at team manager level.It was then discussed by the Formula 1 Strategy Group, which unanimously felt it was a very good way to go to improve the spectacle of Formula 1.

“It then went to the Formula 1 Commission and finally to the World Council. They also felt it was a good thing for Formula 1. The teams were 100% behind it.”

However, when asked about it this morning, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn did not agree that it would work in this way.

“I think it was a decision taken very quickly,” she said. “If the intention of it is to get more viewers on board because people look at the start and then just switch to another channel, I don’t think you’re really going to change that because nobody is going to sit through the race and think ‘maybe a restart is going to happen’, so I don’t think you’re going to catch those viewers really.”

Kaltenborn revealed that the main support had come from the F1 Strategy Group, of which Sauber is not a member.

“We all were at that table, but it came from the Strategy Group if I am not wrong,” she explained. “All of the decisions, double points, may I remind you of, has come from the Strategy Group. Restarts have come from the Strategy Group, cost control has come from the Strategy Group, so… yes!”

The F1 Strategy Group is made up of only the biggest teams in Formula 1, and has been a particularly contentious matter with Kaltenborn and Sauber due to their lack of power in the sport. Quite clearly, standing restarts – much like double points in Abu Dhabi – will be a point of controversy in 2015, and only time will tell whether it has the desired effect of improving the show.

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.”