F1 teams to follow FIA’s lead for Russian Grand Prix

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As concerns about the planned Russian Grand Prix continue to grow, Formula 1 teams have said that they will follow the FIA’s guidelines and lead for the race in October.

The first Russian GP in 100 years is set to take place on October 12th at the Sochi International Street Circuit, which has been built around the Winter Olympics complex in the city. However, following the Crimean crisis and the recent MH17 disaster, there have been some concerns about the viability of the race.

Bernie Ecclestone has said that he sees no reason why the race should not go ahead, as have the organizers in Sochi. When asked about the matter in a press conference yesterday, the team principals said that they would follow the stance taken by the sport’s governing body, the FIA.

“Obviously what’s going on in Russia and that part of the world at the moment is of huge concern to everybody,” Claire Williams of Williams Martini Racing said. “But we’ve always said as a sport we try to disengage from taking a political angle on these things.

“Here the FIA is the governing body of our sport, they issue a calendar and we have to take our direction from them and at the moment, the race is still on the calendar.”

Her sentiments were echoed by Force India team owner Vijay Mallya and Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

“Well something similar occurred in Bahrain and we followed the FIA’s directive or recommendation,” Mallya said. “I think I agree with Claire. It’s up to the FIA to guide us and we all follow what the FIA guidance is.”

“I absolutely agree with that,” Kaltenborn added. “We have to rely on the governing body and commercial rights holder. They’re the ones who have the responsibility and we will do as they say, like we’ve done in the past.”

The most recent cancellation of a grand prix came in 2011 when trouble in Bahrain flared up. The decision was taken by the FIA to cancel the event, and this was followed by the teams. In 2012, the race went ahead despite lingering concerns, but it was the FIA’s call to make; it appeared to be the correct one as the race went ahead with few problems.

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.”