McLaren not planning to leave driver decision until off-season

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier has said that the team is not planning to wait until the end of the Formula 1 season before making a decision about its driver line-up for the 2015 season.

There has been a great deal of speculation about McLaren’s plans for next year as the British team reunites with engine supplier Honda. The two enjoyed a successful partnership together in the late 1980s, and it has been rumored that the team is looking for a big name driver to kick-start this new deal.

Jenson Button has confirmed that he is not thinking about his future at the moment, and some expected the team to wait until the end of the season before making a decision about its line-up.

However, speaking in Belgium today, Boullier confirmed that the team would not be waiting that long.

“No, it is not our plan to wait that long, no,” he said.

“I’m sure there are a lot of fans waiting, and these two guys are waiting. Obviously we went through some changes in the management of the team as you know, and obviously there is a new strategy that Ron [Dennis] and myself will try to put in place.

“We are in the position to wait a few days or a few weeks until we know where we go in the next few years. That’s why it takes a bit of time.”

When asked about his future, Button chose to focus on his efforts this season as McLaren looks to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in 2013 alongside rookie driver Kevin Magnussen.

“It’s an unusual situation, yes, but sometimes it’s that way,” he said. “Our job is to drive as fast as we can, do the best job for ourselves and the best job for the team.

“I feel that we are both doing the maximum we can, and we’re both doing a very good job.”

Both drivers qualified inside the top ten for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix, which you can watch live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.

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.”