Newey: Belgium about damage limitation for Red Bull

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Red Bull chief technical officer Adrian Newey has said that this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix is about damage limitation for the defending world champions, given that the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps will exploit many of the weaknesses on the RB10 car.

The biggest issue for Red Bull at Spa are the long straights and high-speed corners, which require a good top speed. All of the teams that use Renault engines have been suffering from a lack of power in 2014, and this was particularly clear during practice yesterday.

The Mercedes power unit is by far the best on the grid, with seven cars powered by the German marque finishing in the top ten in each session. Predictably, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked out the top two positions in both sessions for the works team.

For Newey, this race is about Red Bull doing as well as it can in light of the problems with the engine, and he believes that the team’s next opportunity to win a race will come at Singapore in one month’s time.

“Certainly unless weather plays a part in the race and we manage to get that right or unless we are plain lucky, then given a sort of normal dry race, it seems very unlikely that we will be battling for the win,” Newey said.

“At that point, it becomes damage limitation.

“Possibly Singapore we have a chance. I think it goes without saying that the circuits that have the shorter straights are the ones that suit us best.”

Red Bull has not carried over its championship-winning form from 2013 into this year, with Daniel Ricciardo’s two victories coming in races where Mercedes was not at the peak of its powers. Nevertheless, the team looks set to finish second in the constructors’, relying that it can fend off Williams and Ferrari behind.

Newey also spoke about his job change at Red Bull, with the aerodynamicist set to take up more of a mentor-style role at the team for 2015 so he can focus on other projects outside of F1.

“At the moment I’m still full-time at Red Bull Racing and will be certainly over the coming months as we finalize the general layout of the car,” he said. “It won’t be until Christmas that I start to really get into new roles.”

Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.