Beyoncé may have said “if you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it”, but in motorsport we race the rings instead. Yes, it’s race weekend once again, as F1 is welcomed by the circuit previously known as the Österreichring!
It was known as such between 1969 and 1995, and then became known as the A1 Ring from 1996 to 2003. Finally, Dietrich Mateschitz bought the circuit and in 2008 started a reconstruction. From 2014, the newly-branded Red Bull Ring became host once again to a European round of the Formula One Championship.
The Red Bull Ring was originally 5.911km in length, with its weakness being its safety record and high speeds (second only to Silverstone during its Österreichring period). Something had to be done, and as such it was shortened to 4.326km in its guise as the A1 Ring, and again in 2016 to 4.318km.
Red Bull Ring sectors. Image courtesy of Pirelli.This weekend we head back to the Red Bull Rin after last week’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, which was dominated by Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas finishing 1-2.
Can I mention hot air? No, not the untruths one may hear, but instead air streams from the African continent. Tyres could again play a massive part in the race this weekend, with it predicted to be one of the hottest days in Europe so far, courtesy of very warm air streams. Last weekend in France saw temperatures hit 56°C, but this weekend could hit 60°C. That alone will shift the working windows of the tyres and also will vary between teams . With higher air temps we could also see the 2019 aero regulations cause some teams issues with heat distribution.
The Red Bull Ring, following its 2014 redesign, is one of the shortest tracks on the F1 calendar, with the current configuration’s lap record being a 1:06.957, set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2018. With four sharp turns (T1, T3, T7 and T8) and three DRS zones allowing overtaking, the race is not a foregone conclusion.
2019 has been a year of Mercedes dominance, with them having won all eight races so far – two for Valtteri Bottas and six for Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari has had correlation issues in their fluid dynamics simulation to wind tunnel analysis, hence the testing of new front wing and floor assemblies at Paul Ricard. With that issue presumably sorted, can their car finally show its promise?
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won here in 2018, and he will be hoping for that to happen again this year to finally break the Mercedes strong-hold on the championship.
And if Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc can’t mount a challenge? It will, yet again, be between the Mercedes boys of Hamilton and Bottas.
[Featured Image courtesy of Colombo Images/Scuderia Ferrari]
Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to exchange his Red Bull wings for a Renault Sport beret for 2019 surprised many. Ricciardo began his F1 career back in 2011, racing with Toro Rosso and Red Bull for nine years and showing his abilities with bold overtakes, clean racing, and a grin visible even when wearing a helmet.
Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull was hard news for some. With two strong drivers in that team during the 2018 season, it was becoming increasingly difficult to say who, between Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, held the number one seat.
This isn’t, of course, the first time a talented driver has taken the decision to move to a less-successful team in the hope of making some big improvements. The most recent success story was, of course, Lewis Hamilton’s decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes in 2013. The rest, they say, is somewhat monotonous history.
But why did Ricciardo leave for Renault?
Although Renault have a rich and varied history in Formula 1, their success in recent years has been hit-and-miss. After a few years taking places in the middle of the grid, the decision to sign Nico Hulkenberg for the 2017 season allowed for Renault to become a slightly more permanent fixture in the top ten in qualifying.
Renault’s confidence seems to have been boosted a great deal by Ricciardo’s signing, describing Ricciardo and Hulkenberg as ‘one of the strongest – if not the strongest – driver line-ups on the grid’. The fact that the two Renault drivers are particularly talented is undeniable, which makes it a shame that Ricciardo’s first season with the team has lacked the strength they had initially hoped for.
It has been a slow start for all parties involved, riddled by technical faults, friendly fire and gearbox failures, which resulted in four DNFs so far this season. The Canadian Grand Prix proved to be a great opportunity for Renault, after Kevin Magnussen’s crash in Q2 kept Verstappen out of Q3 and opened the door for Ricciardo to qualify fourth, his best starting position since joining Renault.
Despite this promise, though, the race didn’t result in a podium finish. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg finished P6 and P7 respectively, which is respectable enough. However, Renault’s decision to keep Hulkenberg behind Ricciardo despite Hulkenberg being on fresher tyres seems to have caused a bit of disharmony in the garage.
According to team boss Cyril Abiteboul, Renault’s position in the Constructors Championship proved more important on this occasion.
“I wanted to make sure that the team’s back in the game, and the drivers will also be back in the game, their own game, from next week onwards,” he said.
Renault are currently 5th in the Constructors Championship, having jumped up from 8th thanks to their result in Canada. They now sit just two points behind McLaren, so it seems that the the temporary self-preservation tactic paid off.
Though Renault’s season has been a little slow to get started, Ricciardo’s optimism hasn’t waned.
“We’re realistic in our approach, but the team should be proud of this weekend [Canada],” he said. “They have that drive and determination to push on now and that’s really encouraging.”
As the Formula 1 train pushes on to Circuit Paul Ricard in France this weekend, it is hoped that Ricciardo and Renault’s fortune will continue on for their home race. Ricciardo’s move to Renault has allowed for that little bit more variety and action in the middle of the pack, something that fans argue has been quite limited in recent seasons.
The iconic Monaco Grand Prix marked the sixthrace of the 2019 F1 season, and while the focus this week has been on the loss of F1 legend and Mercedes mentor Niki Lauda, the race around the streets of Monte Carlo finally brought a long-awaited challenge to reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, in the form of Max Verstappen and Red Bull.
Red Bull’s decision to kiss goodbye to their partnership with Renault in 2018 was hardly a surprise to the world of F1, after a number of seasons falling short of their dominant years with Sebastian Vettel. It was also hardly a surprise to find that fans were dubious about their subsequent contract with Honda, who famously struggled in their partnership with McLaren.
With Max Verstappen hungry to win his first championship, the move to a power unit that had been even less reliable than Renault seemed like very risky business, but is the risk beginning to pay off?
Rob Marshall, Red Bull’s chief engineering officer, certainly seems to think so, even if they are under no illusion they still have a way to go.
“We can see areas around the power-unit packaging-wise,” he said. “It’s just making different bits and moving a few things around. [Honda] are very open to our suggestions.”
The Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers both felt the benefit of an upgrade brought to Baku, which was reflected in Verstappen’s solid performance. The same could not be said for his team mate Pierre Gasly, however, who was forced to retire on lap 40 out of 51 due to a loss of power.
In the run up to the Monaco Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has been highly critical of the suppliers in the past, expressed the teams delight in working with Honda this season.
“We are very happy with the progress that’s being made […] to have closed that gap [to the top 2 teams] and put that performance on the car is really encouraging,” he said.
Horner was under no illusion about still having work to do with the car generally but, aside from Gasly’s retirement in Baku, reliability hasn’t been as much of an issue for the team.
“Reliability compared to previous years has been fantastic, and performance is strong […] Now we have to try and focus on diminishing the gap further to Mercedes”.
Verstappen found enough pace to challenge Hamilton’s Mercedes, running in second position in Monaco from lap 11 after exiting the pit lane ahead of Bottas following an unsafe release. Though Verstappen finished in fourth place as a result of his five-second penalty, he is still positive about his race overall.
“Of course I would have liked to have been on the podium but if we look at the pace and performance, we were strong,” he said.
Pierre Gasly also had a respectable performance around the streets of Monaco, finishing fifth and also taking an extra point for fastest lap for the second time this season.
In terms of points and podiums, then, Red Bull is building a steady lead ahead of the other teams. After Monaco, Red Bull are on 110 points and are beginning to close the gap between themselves and Ferrari, who currently have 139 points. In the drivers’ championship, Verstappen is in fourth position with 78 points, behind Vettel with 82 points.
Pierre Gasly is in sixth position with 32 points behind Leclerc who has 57 points. Verstappen has also finished third twice so far this season – Monaco would have been another podium had it not been for the unfortunate penalty.
It almost goes without saying that Mercedes are the ones to beat, however with Red Bull’s newfound pace, it’s certainly an encouraging start for a team that were once the ones to beat.
[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]
Russia, 2016. The third running of Sochi’s very own Grand Prix. This article doesn’t begin there, nor does it click into gear a race prior, when Shanghai played ringmaster. You’d be expecting those, given the point of discussion. The destination, for those wondering, is actually the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Mexico, 2015.
If Red Bull’s junior academy is the seeding bed, and Toro Rosso the tomato plant, then Daniil Kvyat’s career path was one of the fruit being picked, placed in a bag and chopped up for the salad bowl a little earlier than the gardener would have liked. Not that it was apparent in this race – the Russian was ripe, for both a second career podium and a mission statement for next year, first sentence: ‘I’m the boss now’.
As it turned out, after a mid-race safety car restart, Kvyat would be nailed on the entry to Turn 1 by Valtteri Bottas’ Williams. The taste of champagne trickled away, replaced by his inner choice words, and so did the opportunity to prove he didn’t need a whirlwind of madness to clear his route to a rostrum. I’ve not just harked back to this race to avoid treading down a popular path, dissecting those moments – I’ve done it to pinpoint where Kvyat really began his fall.
Kvyat’s career (arguably, given his opportunism the next year in China) never reached those heady heights again. It was the last time he was placed atop F1’s ‘next best thing’ shrine, the last time he was hailed as the clean-cut superstar about to take a top team by the scruff of the neck. The last two races of his 2015 season weren’t alarming, but left much to be desired, and then came the intense beatdown he received at the hands of Daniel Ricciardo in 2016’s first four races.
And we all know how the story goes from here. From edging his teammate, a star burning ever so bright in himself, to a path towards humiliation, Kvyat was javelin-launched out of the Red Bull first team for their next pack of motorsport chewing gum, Max Verstappen. While his 18-year old successor held aloft the winner’s trophy in his very first race, Kvyat was given a rude awakening by his new partner Carlos Sainz.
His stint at Toro Rosso was painful for us all, but especially so for him. His interview after qualifying at the 2016 German Grand Prix symbolised the most desolate side of Formula One, that of a man fighting not only 22 drivers but his own mental health. And after a 2017 season littered with mistakes, culminating in a crash in Singapore while Sainz romped home to 4th and more ‘Vamos!’ than a Peruvian football stand, Kvyat was dropped. A superb cameo in the US, earning a point for 10th, couldn’t save him. And that, looked like that.
But amazingly, given the cascade of humiliation he was made to endure in his unconventional F1 career, Kvyat didn’t let that weekend in Texas be the end of it. A year as development driver under the tutelage of Ferrari allowed him to take reprieve from the right-at-you cannon fire of a 21 race season, every Grand Prix spent under the sea of microphones, cameras and expectations.
And it’s done him the world of good. When Kvyat was announced for a return to Toro Rosso in September – a move borne out of necessity given how sparse the Red Bull academy was at the time – to replace the man who ironically replaced him to begin with, Pierre Gasly, I’m sure we all feared the worst. Like the close friend who picks up the phone to a toxic remnant of the past, we wanted to tell him no. Don’t do it. They’ll only hurt you again. But from where I’m standing, five races in and a slew of European races still in the distance as blank canvases, Toro Rosso have sent him on his way with paintbrushes in his hand, art on his mind and hope in his heart.
And this time, I really don’t think the hope will kill him. Because he’s too busy killing it, as he proved to such eye-widening effect in Barcelona. A 9th on the road, which should’ve been so much more were it not for a botched pitstop, signalled a performance beyond the sum of its parts. The overtakes were masterful, the racecraft was impeccable and the confidence was brimming. And it’s no flash in the pan, because it was much the same in Australia, where he strong-armed Pierre Gasly into staying behind, and qualifying in Azerbaijan, when he waltzed it into 6th on the grid as if he was Baku’s ruling king.
To conclude, I’ll throw a little fact here that puts all of this into context: three years ago in Spain, Kvyat began the weekend having been told, while watching Game of Thrones, he was surplus to requirements at Red Bull Racing. In the race, all he could muster was 10th place while his teammate wooed the crowds a half-minute up the road in sixth. Three years on, he’s forced the F1 door open, reclaimed his lost seat, and been the main cause for outcry over Spain’s Driver of the Day vote. Fans are beginning to wonder if he can once again reach the top, and rejoin Red Bull. Winter came, and Kvyat prevailed. And that can surely warm even the most icy of hearts.
[Featured image: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]
It’s the super twisty round on the island that is Corsica. Whether or not it actually has 10,000 corners anymore is a moot point. It still has more corners than most! Last season the top three positions were taken by Seb Ogier, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville. Any of those three could win this weekend, and you can add Elfyn Evans, Kris Meeke and Seb Loeb to that list as well. As championship leader, Ott will open the road on Friday’s stages. This will potentially give him an advantage, as the road will be at it’s cleanest, with no gravel and mud pulled onto the road.
This year sees 14 stages totaling 347.51km, with 133.34km featuring in completely new stages.
Citroen states in its preview-
“With the opening leg taking the crews from Porto-Vecchio to Propriano, then heading north on day two towards Castagniccia, Cap Corse and the Désert des Agriates, before finishing next to Calvi, this year’s edition of the classic island rally remains faithful to the recently-restored tradition of touring the whole of Corsica.
In addition to the various regions covered, the 2019 Tour de Corse has plenty of other ingredients to make it a serious test. The total competitive distance is now close to 350km (compared with 333.48km in 2018), Friday’s leg only has a tyre-fitting zone at the midway point, Saturday features some 174.50km with two runs on the 47.18km-long and especially demanding Castagniccia stage, all rounded off with a longer Power Stage (19.34km) than usual, set against the magnificent backdrop of the Fango valley.
The other major difficulty stems from the fact that more than 62% of the itinerary has been revamped. Of the fourteen stages, only three – Valinco (SS2/SS5, 25.94km), last contested in 2015 , Cap Corse (SS7/SS10, 25.62km) and Désert des Agriates (SS8/SS11,14.45km), both contested last year – are familiar to the current crop of world championship crews. This makes it all the more important for them to get to grips with and take good paces notes on the 133.34 new kilometres in just two passes during recce at a limited maximum speed (80kph). Recce looks set to be every more crucial than usual and will call for unremitting concentration throughout.”
Here we have the full run down of the stages-
THURSDAY 28 MARCH
9.00am: Shakedown (Sorbo Ocagnano)
FRIDAY 29 MARCH
7.00am: Start Day 1 (Porto-Vecchio)
7.05am: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)
8.29am: SS 1 – Bavella 1 (17,60 km)
9.24am: SS 2 – Valinco 1 (25,94 km)
10.32am: SS 3 – Alta-Rocca 1 (17,37 km)
12.41pm: Tyre fitting zone (Porto-Vecchio – 15 mins)
2.05pm: SS 4 – Bavella 2 (17,60 km)
3.00pm: SS 5 – Valinco 2 (25,94 km)
4.08pm: SS 6 – Alta-Rocca 2 (17,37 km)
7.38pm: Flexi service A (Bastia airport– 45 mins)
SATURDAY 30 MARCH
6.05am: Start Day 2 & service B (Bastia airport – 15 mins)
7.38am: SS 7 – Cap Corse 1 (25,62 km)
9.08am: SS 8 – Désert des Agriates 1 (14,45 km)
10.14am: SS 9 – Castagniccia 1 (47,18 km)
12.32pm: Service C (Bastia airport – 40 mins)
2.38pm: SS 10 – Cap Corse 2 (25,62 km)
4.08pm: SS 11 – Désert des Agriates 2 (14,45 km)
5.14pm: SS 12 – Castagniccia 2 (47,18 km)
6.34pm: Flexi service D (Bastia airport – 45 mins)
8.24pm: Parc ferme (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)
SUNDAY 31 MARCH
7.30am: Parc ferme out (Place Saint Nicolas – Bastia)
8.10am: Service E (Bastia airport – 15 mins)
9.45am: SS 13 – Eaux de Zilia (31,85 km)
12.18pm: SS 14 – Calvi Power Stage (19,34 km)
1.18pm: Finish (Citadelle de Calvi)
3.00pm: Podium (Citadelle de Calvi)
Here’s the thoughts of the crews.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
“I am looking forward to Corsica. Being first on the road there as championship leader should be a good thing, as this is the best place to be on asphalt where the road is cleanest. In the past, Corsica was probably the rally on which I struggled the most, but we had good pace last year on our first time there in the Toyota Yaris WRC. We know that we have a really strong package now on asphalt, so I believe that we can have a good performance. I’m sure that some of our rivals will be very fast too, but the aim is to continue our positive start to the season and keep scoring as many points as possible.”
“Corsica is a rally I always look forward to. The asphalt is abrasive so provides good grip, and the road is usually pretty clean. The island itself is very beautiful too. I like the changes to the route this year. A couple of the stages were used when I won the rally in 2015, so I have good memories of those. I had a good test earlier this week: We did 200 kilometres and tried a lot of things, not only for this rally but also development for the future. On Rallye Monte Carlo I struggled with understeer, so we worked on that and improved the turning, as well as the braking, and I’m feeling more confident with the car. Now I’ve got a couple of days of relaxing at home, and feeling ready for the recce to start on Monday”
“I’ve had good times in Corsica in recent years: My speed’s always been there. It’s always a huge challenge, and especially so this year with about 75 per cent of the route being completely new. For that reason, I think making good pace-notes on the recce is going to be an equally important part of the challenge. I had a good feeling with the Yaris WRC in asphalt trim in Monte Carlo, but it was a very different rally to Corsica – except perhaps for the Power Stage where we went pretty well! I enjoyed my pre-event test last Sunday, even though it was a lot to learn in just one day on just one road. But I think we’re quite clear on our direction for the setup, and I’m looking forward to the rally.”
Citroën Total WRT
“The route has been changed quite a lot again this year, but that has already happened before here, which has meant that I have often had to get to grips with new stages and that tends to suit me. It adds a bit of stress and adrenaline to the race, and it can lead to there being bigger gaps than usual. When the stages are new for everyone, obviously the difference comes from who does a very good job during recce and then has sufficient confidence in their pace notes to push right from the word go. We also know about the qualities of the C3 WRC on tarmac. Our pre-event testing was really productive and the feeling was good in the car. Clearly, I’m also very keen to do well at our home round of the WRC and keep our good run of form going.”
“I have always really enjoyed this rally and I can’t wait to get started. I love driving on clean tarmac like here or in Catalonia. The challenge will be to take good pace notes from the word go. I think pace notes are even more important on asphalt than on gravel in order to get the line right and to know what speed you can carry through corners. With the revised itinerary, we’ll all be in the same boat as regards familiarity with the stages. Although it won’t be easy, it’s an opportunity for us, since we generally have a bit less knowledge of the roads on the other rallies. In any case, our tests went well and I feel confident. I hope I can be at least as competitive as last year.”
“Corsica is a very nice event and I have great memories from previous years. I have won there twice, once in IRC and then again with Hyundai Motorsport in WRC two years ago. It’s a challenging event, with lots of corners, but a rally that I enjoy and relish. The recce is very long and demanding, but once you are in the car and can find a good flow it is a rewarding rally, one from which you can find a good sensation. As our first event of the season on tarmac, and following the less-than-straightforward weekend in Mexico, I hope we can get things back on track.”
“The first tarmac rally of the season, Corsica is a rally where I really feel comfortable and competitive. The stages are really nice, set against a postcard backdrop, but incredibly demanding too. Long stages and loops can make tyre selection and management quite tricky. The stages themselves put pressure on the car and crew with tight, twisty corners that require maximum attention and focus. Carlos and I won Tour de Corse in IRC back in 2012, while I also finished on the podium a few years ago with Hyundai Motorsport. I hope our past success and experience, together with the performance of our i20 Coupe WRC, can help us fight for a good result this year.”
“Corsica is a beautiful event, with stunning landscape close to the sea, and magnificent island setting. It’s a wonderful place for rallying and as the French round of the championship it is a very special atmosphere for me. An extremely technical rally, there are many different types of road with some bumpy places and some fast sections. In fact, it seems to get faster each year. It is tricky to find the right rhythm throughout each stage, and the weather can also play an influential factor – sometimes raining in the mountains but drier close to the coast. Not an easy one, but fun!”
“I’m looking forward to the first proper Tarmac event of the season, and this year’s Tour de Corse will be a real challenge with about two-thirds of the route made up of completely new stages. The recce is going to be really important and there’s going to be a lot of work needed on the pacenotes.
“This is a demanding rally but the stages themselves are really nice to drive. It was great to get a podium last time out in Mexico, and that really propelled us up the championship standings. It gives us a top-five starting position next week, and we need to capitalise on that and aim for another strong result.
“We spent two days testing together with Teemu and the car feels really good. Everything went to plan and I feel as though we should have some good pace. We’re all looking for another podium and will work as hard as we can to achieve it.”
“I’m really looking forward to the first pure asphalt event of the year. I started my career on this surface – but driving a go-kart is quite different to mastering a world rally car!
“In preparation, Elfyn and I split a couple of days testing and the car felt really good. On a rally like the Tour de Corse it’s really important to find a good balance with the car and I think we managed that.
“I didn’t compete here last year and the route is said to be quite different this year. From what I understand, the stages are slightly faster and a bit closer to the type we see in Catalunya.
“It will be interesting to see, but for us the most important thing is to finish the rally with a clean bill of health. If we can do that it will make the next part of the season mentally so much easier.”
I held a poll on twitter to get a feel for who you’d think would be likely to win. Here’s the result.
This event didn’t start in the normal way you’d expect. The Thursday night stage was cancelled, after a jump that had been added was causing cars to fly far too dangerously. It was a surprise then when it later emerged that Michelle Mouton had not actually checked the stage. What we don’t know is whether or not she was involved in that decision.
Anyway, with that out of the equation, the first real action was starting on Friday morning. 114km of stages lay in front of the crews, including a double run of El Chocolate which made up over sixty kilometres of the days action. The start list looked like this- Tänak, Neuville, Ogier, Meeke, Lappi, Evans, Mikkelsen, Latvala, Suninen, Sordo. It was the first time that Ott was opening the road, courtesy of the being championship leader.
Well, the first stage, SS 2 – El Chocolate 1 (31,57 km) saw under pressure Andreas Mikkelsen take a good stage victory and therefore assume the rally lead, using his good start position to effect, with Ogier and Sordo going well in second and third. British hopes Kris and Elfyn were also near the front of the field, holding fourth and fifth, only eight seconds or so from the Norwegian. This stage also saw the demise of Teemu Suninen who stopped 13km’s into the stage. He’d gone off the road, damaging the front end.
The shorter SS 3 – Ortega 1 (17,28 km) stage saw Ogier top the times, after finding more grip, and closed to just seven tenths of a second of overall leader Andreas. There was a swap further back as Elfyn moved ahead of Kris, with the pair of them battling over fourth place which Elfyn now held. Further back, Thierry was not having a very good day, already almost fifty seconds from the lead. He just could not get on the pace.
The short SS 4 – Street Stage Leon 1 (1,11 km) didn’t see any changes in the leaderboard, with Andreas, Seb and Dani still the top three.
After lunchtime service SS 5 – El Chocolate 2 (31,57 km) we saw a change in the lead after Seb won the stage from Dani and Elfyn. Sadly, Andreas good run in the lead came to an end. He’d stopped in the stage but got going again, only to stop again with 6km’s left in to go. Everyone moved up a single position apart from Jari-Matti who still held sixth as Lappi jumped ahead from seventh into fifth!
SS 6 – Ortega 2 (17,28 km), the penultimate stage of the day, and Ogier took it from Dani and Kris. Elfyn was holding the Toyota driver though, with their battle over third place. Esapekka made a mistake though turning in too early to a corner and hitting a tree the result being that he would lose 10 seconds and fall behind Jari-Matti.
SS 7 – Las Minas (10,72 km) saw Dani drop out of the leading positions sadly after a very consistent run throughout the day. He didn’t even start this stage after his i20 suffered some kind of electrical failure. A big shame indeed for Hyundai who were now down to just a single car, but way off the pace with Thierry a minute from the lead. Evans and Meeke were now in second and third!
SS 8 – V-Power Shell Stage 1 (2,33 km) was run twice to end the day’s action. Nothing of note really happened in these, other than Ott Tanak moving into fourth place. Latvala retired before the stage, after his car refused to start.
CLASSIFICATION DAY 1 (Friday)
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroen C3 WRC) 1h18’33”8
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) + 14”8
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 21”1
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) + 37”1
Lappi / Ferm (Citroen C3 WRC) + 39”1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 1’00”7
Let’s hear from the drivers!
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (1st)
“It’s clearly a very good day for us, in very difficult conditions. The level of grip was low, especially in the morning, but I enjoyed having traces. It was important to place well today, to tackle the longest day of racing tomorrow with a good starting order. However, it will now be well exploited and also be careful because I expect some particularly tricky portions, narrow and even brittle. ”
Esapekka Lappi (5th)
“I am learning little by little to drive C3 WRC on this low grip terrain where I still lack experience and the times have gradually gone in the right direction. I am now expecting a lot of sweeping for the future, but my direct rivals will benefit from a better position on the track, but we will continue to fight to bring back the best possible result. ”
Elfyn Evans (2nd)
“It’s been a good day out there – with the car and everything inside the car all working really well. It’s not been the sort of day to be on the limit. It’s been about staying clean, staying in the line, and trying to find the grip. It’s been very slippery out there today, but it should be a bit faster with a bit more grip tomorrow.
“There are some really nice stages to come, but also some really demanding ones. It’s a bit of a mix and you have to get it all right so I’m looking forward to the challenge. We’ve got to keep pushing because anything can happen and there is still a long way to go. We’ll keep giving it our all and see what happens.”
Teemu Suninen (DNF)
“We were driving cleanly, until we hit a big stone. We lost the front-right and spun into the side of the mountain. There was quite a lot of damage which means that we can’t continue, but the main thing is that both me and Marko are okay.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Kris Meeke (3rd)
“I’m quite happy tonight to be in third place at the end of my first day on gravel in this car. We were missing a bit to match the speed of the leader, but we had no dramas and the car has been perfect for me technically. We had a lot of dust get inside at times which made it hard to see, but the car has been performing well. Tomorrow is a long day with tricky stages and demanding roads again. We are not far away from second place and we’ll have a better road position than we did today, so let’s see what we can do.”
Ott Tänak (4th)
“I think we had a good day today. I did everything I could, I couldn’t have done much more. I had a good feeling in the car all day, so it was quite enjoyable and I had the confidence to push hard. During the afternoon I had a few moments, so we were driving on the limit. Our road position for tomorrow could have been better, because it was set before we gained a place in the super special, but at least the conditions will be more equal with the drivers we are fighting. The gap to second place is not so big and I believe we will have a chance to get it.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (DNF/Rally2)
“I started too cautiously in the first stage this morning but then I started to get the rhythm and the car was working really well. It was getting better during the afternoon and we were up to fourth place. Unfortunately, the alternator stopped charging. We managed to do two more stages and the road section but we couldn’t do the last two super specials. It is frustrating for this to happen, but this is how things go in motorsport sometimes. We just need to look forward and keep fighting for the rest of the weekend.”
Thierry Neuville (6th)
“The puncture this morning ended any real hopes we had of a positive weekend here in México. We could not hide our disappointment from the situation but still did all we could to catch up some places as the day progressed. About 5 or 6km into the stage we nearly went off trying to avoid some big stones and we hit one, which caused the puncture. There was nothing we could do. On these gravel stages, road position plays an important role and unfortunately, we aren’t going to benefit much as this weekend progresses. Of course, despite the huge frustration, we will never give up.”
Dani Sordo (DNF/Rally2)
“It has been a welcome return to the WRC for myself and Carlos. We hoped to fight near the front from the start, and we were able to do that for much of the day. I felt immediately comfortable in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC and we set some very strong stage times. Running in second overall, just four seconds from the lead, we picked up an electrical issue after the Ortega stage. We had to stop on the road section to try and fix the problem but there was no chance. We had the genuine opportunity for a strong podium result here – and who knows what else – but that’s no longer possible, which is a really a shame for the whole team.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (DNF/Rally2)
“We had a positive morning, but the afternoon could not have been a starker turnaround in fortunes. We wanted to get a good start, and we did just that. We knew that the El Chocolate stage would play an important role; the longest stage of the day and one that everyone knows well. Still, it changes a bit each year but we put a lot of effort into getting it right – and we were rewarded with a stage win in the morning loop. We were in the rally lead, and fighting hard, but in the repeat of El Chocolate I hit a stone. We got a puncture so we changed the tyre but we could only continue for 10km before the suspension broke due to the impact with the rock, and in the end, we were forced to stop.”
A much longer day awaited the crews, with 138.37km of action! The start list looked like this – Mikkelsen
Now there was a controversial start to the day with SS 10 – Guanajuatito 1 (25,90 km) getting a red flagged. Esapekka Lappi went off the road. He was setting some fast splits earlier, but slid off the road. Meeke and Evans both finished the stage, with Kris setting a time 19 seconds faster than anyone else! Ogier was next in to the stage and just as Elfyn finished, that is when the stage was red flagged, as it was considered that Esapekka was stopped in a dangerous position. Also, Seb completed the stage having gained a puncture, after hitting some rocks on the stage. Now, all the times from this stage were deleted. I’ll cover the details about this later, but it’s fair to say if these things had not been changed, Kris Meeke would have been the new rally leader, with Elfyn in second place. Ogier at that point would have been fourth, 51 seconds from the lead.
The next stage SS 11 – Otates 1 (32,27 km), and there was a decision made to increase the time gap between the cars to four minutes. Jari-Matti took his first stage victory of the weekend. Sadly, Kris had a problem and dropped a minute and thirty-three seconds, after getting a puncture. He was now in fifth place. Meantime, Seb had got very lucky with the red flag in stage 10, as he was given a notional time for the stage and that did two things. First of all, the notional time was faster than Elfyn’s and also meant that kept him in the lead. It was odd that they’d done this, as Elfyn had been faster earlier in the stage.
The shorter SS 12 – El Brinco 1 (8,13 km) stage saw Seb and Jari-Matti share the fastest time, with Thierry just three and a half seconds slower with the third best time. There was now a fight between Elfyn and Ott developing over second place, and the Welshman was holding the Estonian at bay, the gap at 20 seconds.
Another stage victory for Seb followed in SS 13 – Guanajuatito 2 (25,90 km), with Elfyn increasing the gap to Ott by a little in their battle for runner up. Thierry was kind of in no-mans land with a two-minute gap over Kris, and 45 seconds behind Ott.
SS 14 – Otates 2 (32,27 km) saw the gap between Ott and Elfyn reduce to just six seconds after the Toyota driver took sixteen seconds out of the Welshman’s lead. Seb now had a half minute lead over Elfyn.
The repeat of SS 15 – El Brinco 2 (8,13 km) saw Seb increase his lead further, and with Ott winning the stage, he would close a little more on Elfyn, the gap between them reducing a further two seconds!
To finish the day, SS 16 – V-Power Shell Stage 3 (2,33 km) and SS 16 – V-Power Shell Stage 4 (2,33 km) saw Ott and Elfyn set the same time on the first run through and then Elfyn would increase the gap by three seconds on the second run.
The SS 18 – Street Stage Leon 2 (1,11 km) saw Dani come to the fore, winning the stage, with teammates Thierry and Andreas, but it was the gap between Ott and Elfyn that held our interest, with just 2.2 seconds between them!
“It was a long and difficult leg, which started with a puncture and finished with a minor technical issue at the very end, but overall, we drove well. I’m delighted to finish today’s leg with an increased lead, and I trust my team to make sure the C3 WRC is back in perfect working order for tomorrow. Because we need to finish the job and score maximum points.”
Esapekka Lappi (DNF/Rally2)
“I came into a tight, downhill left-hand corner and it was more slippery than I had anticipated. I ran wide and the car was left balanced at the edge of the road, in the ditch. There was no damage to the car, but we were stuck and had no chance of getting going again. Obviously, I’m sorry for the team, but the main thing is that I have learned a lot at this event, a lot more than last year. I’m starting to understand how you need to drive here and I’m going to try and keep adding to my experience tomorrow.”
Elfyn Evans (2nd)
“It was a pretty good morning for us and a good start to the afternoon, but I was disappointed to have given so much away to Ott [Tänak] on the second pass of Otates [SS14]. I was pushing quite hard, but I just couldn’t get comfortable and didn’t have the feeling to go much faster.
“The gap isn’t particularly big right now and there’ll be a big fight tomorrow, but if we have a good run, I’m confident that we can get the job done. You still have to drive quite smart to be fast here, but at the end of the day we want that second place and we’re going to fight for it.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“We’ve had a good day today. In the morning there was still quite a lot of loose gravel on the stages, but we managed to have a clean loop. This afternoon was our opportunity to fight and we managed to take some time back. The surface was constantly changing and the grip was unpredictable, so it wasn’t easy. It looks like it will be interesting tomorrow: We have something to fight for and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Kris Meeke (5th)
“I really enjoyed the first stage this morning, we had really good speed and we took the lead of the rally. Unfortunately, in the second one I picked up a puncture. I decided to continue, which was probably the correct decision in terms of time, but it damaged something in the rear suspension which I had to carry into the next stage. To drop to fifth and have nothing much to fight for was disappointing, but it’s important to hold on to these points and score a strong result for the team.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)
“Overall, I’m happy with today. Compared to yesterday, the performance was much better. We made some small changes to the car and this helped, particularly coming out of the slow corners. Our total stage times have been close to the leaders so I can be satisfied with that. We are now up to eighth place and I think there is a good chance to get seventh tomorrow if we keep going with the same speed that we had today. I would like to get some Power Stage points too – that will be important for the championship.”
Thierry Neuville (4th)
“Our road position today has been slightly more advantageous with two cars running ahead of us rather than one, but it has still been far from an ideal situation. We knew we couldn’t do more in terms of our own performance, so we just drove and tried to enjoy the stages while taking care to avoid punctures. Yesterday we felt like we had no force to fight with the others, but today we were able to drive fast. After the morning loop we knew we were unlikely to catch any more positions, so we just watched to see what happened ahead of us. The afternoon was an improvement. Our car tends to respond well and perform better when the roads are more rutted. When the surface is harder, it is more slippery. We have three more stages to survive and see what we can salvage from this weekend.”
Dani Sordo (10th)
“We have done all we could have in some very tricky conditions. At times this morning there was a lot of dust hanging in places during the stage, which made driving that bit more difficult. We made some set-up changes during lunchtime service and I was happier with the car in the afternoon. Still, we struggled for traction with the hard tyre in the repeat of Otates, so it wasn’t easy. Seeing the performance of our colleagues has given us motivation to push, along with the fantastic support of the fans, so we will see what we can achieve on the final morning.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)
“If there’s a time and place when you don’t want to be first on the road it is Saturday in Mexico – there has definitely been lots of cleaning today. Even considering that handicap, there are positives to take away. Our times have not been too bad and I have been quite happy with our performance overall. The result is gone but we’ve tried to enjoy the driving and to keep our motivation high. We’ve been able to explore some different things on the car for use in the future. The most unusual moment of the day came at the start of the afternoon loop when we arrived at a closed gate mid-stage. Thankfully we had ‘Anders the Gate Opener’ on hand to open the road in the most literal sense. It was one of those bizarre situations that perfectly illustrates the frustration of our Rally México.”
Well, with three stages still to run on Sunday, totaling 60.17km, we had the battle between Elfyn and Ott to watch and enjoy! The start list looked like this – Lappi, Mikkelsen, Sordo, Latvala, Meeke, Neuville, Tänak, Evans, Ogier.
SS 19 – Alfaro (21,01 km) got the action underway! Top three was Ott, Seb and Thierry. Kris Meeke was taking it easy, losing time but looking to the final stage and some power stage points. In the battle between Ott and Elfyn with the M-Sport driver setting the fourth fastest time, he’d fall behind Ott, but the gap was still very small at just two seconds between the former teammates.
SS 20 – Mesa Cuata (25,07 km) and Ott flew through the stage, increasing the gap a further five seconds over Elfyn. However, this was no capitulation from the Welshman, who was holding his own and driving brilliantly. Seb was second quickest. Kris Meeke was still taking it easy. He had other ideas. His plan was to win the power stage.
The final one, SS 21 – Las Minas Power Stage (10,72 km)… Early pace setter Esapekka saw his time eclipsed by Dani, but it was Kris who really set the stage on fire with a time that was five seconds faster, but it was Seb Ogier in the end that took the stage victory, narrowly beating Kris’ time by one tenth of a second. Incredible. Those taking extra points were Ogier, Meeke, Neuville, Sordo and Lappi.
“Mexico is definitely a special place for me and I’m especially pleased to secure this fifth win here and take maximum points for the championship! That was what we came for, and although it wasn’t a trouble-free weekend, we managed it well from start to finish. The potential I saw in the C3 WRC continues to be borne out. It enabled us to be top performers this weekend. It’s now up to us to keep working hard because the championship looks set to be even closer than ever before. In the meantime, I would like to thank the team for the great job done this weekend! We’ll now head for Corsica looking for a similar outcome.”
Esapekka Lappi (14th)
“I’m pleased to have learned how to drive on this specific surface with my C3 WRC and to have equally made progress in understanding the tyre strategy for these stages. We’re now going to concentrate on the Tour de Corse, with the intention of getting back among the frontrunners.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (2nd)
“It has been a good weekend. This has been a very demanding event: tough for the car, tough for the tyres and tough for the drivers inside the car. I believe we managed it well and I’m really happy to make it through without mistakes or problems. It really shows how strong we are. I had a puncture on the Power Stage, so there was nothing I could do there, but the first two stages were good and we managed to get the second place. It’s been a good start to the championship with three podiums from three rallies, and it would be great if we can carry on like this.”
Kris Meeke (5th)
“We were in a secure fifth place in the overall standings, so we had to balance protecting that with a push in the Power Stage. I saved my tyres through the first two stages, which I think was the right strategy. I then gave it everything in the Power Stage, while still making sure to bring home the fifth place. It’s been a tough rally for me after the puncture while we were leading, but to come away with 14 points is still positive. For the team and for the manufacturers’ championship it’s been a really strong rally.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (8th)
“I don’t think I’ve ever fought so hard to get four points! At the end of the second stage of the day, we hit some bedrock with the sump guard. We thought we had no chance to continue but I said we can’t give up at this point. The sump guard was only half-fixed so I couldn’t drive fast in the Power Stage, and we were late into the time control so we lost seventh place by four seconds. But at least we made it to the end. There have been a lot of things happening this weekend, hopefully the next rally will be a bit calmer!”
Elfyn Evans (3rd)
“It’s a good result, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed because second place should have been on the cards this weekend. Unfortunately, there were just a couple of things that cost us quite a lot. That second pass of Otates cost us pretty dearly, and then we made the wrong call on the tyres this morning.
“That said, it was still a good weekend and there are a lot of positives to take away. We didn’t make a single mistake and we’ve collected some good points that will give us a better road position in Corsica. Most importantly, we can see that we’ve made some good changes to the car and we’ll work hard to build on that throughout the year.”
Thierry Neuville (4th)
“That was not the weekend we wanted. From the puncture early on Friday morning, and with our road position, it has been a really challenging event from start to finish. We have been missing some speed at times and generally struggling. I felt I was driving on a good rhythm but we weren’t on our usual pace. Today, I tried to keep a good rhythm in case something happened to the guys in front but that meant we didn’t have enough tyre performance left for the Power Stage, unlike some of our rivals. We have to put this rally to one side and re-group ready for Corsica.”
Dani Sordo (9th)
“Our aim for today was to drive within our limits and to pick up some manufacturers’ points, which are so important for the team. At the start of the Power Stage, I was enjoying the car so we gave it a bit of a push but nothing too crazy. I have had fun driving the stages this weekend, and the support from the crowds has been amazing, even if the end result was not what we could have achieved. We were fighting at the front on Friday until our problems so the potential is definitely there. We’ll be back stronger at the next rally in Corsica.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (11th)
“It’s easy to dwell on the missed opportunities this weekend, but it is important that we look at the many positives. The i20 Coupe WRC performed much more to my liking on these gravel stages, and that was reflected in our competitive stage times on Friday. Obviously, we weren’t able to fight for the sort of result we were capable of scoring but that’s rallying sometimes. The final day was clean and we had a decent run through the Power Stage. It was my first attempt at Las Minas as I missed out on Friday afternoon. It wasn’t perfect but another useful lesson.”
Now, there you have it! A second victory for Citroen this year and their eighth in Mexico! Ott’s drive to second place was incredible and has kept him in the championship lead. Finally, Elfyn and Scott’s first podium together, coming at an event that neither of them had stood on the podium before. A very consistent drive had rewarded them with a great result which has lifted them into fifth place in the championship. Both Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke could have also stood on the podium, but they both suffered misfortunes that were not of their doing. Early leader, Andreas had a good event until disaster struck, not least the closed gate that Anders had to open! Another driver that went well was Jari-Matti, who did have a good event, but was hampered again with reliability from his Yaris.
Next up is Tour de Corse. Held over the weekend of the 28th to 31st of March. The first fully tarmac event of the year, meaning the closer you are to the leader, the better the road conditions for you.
It’s that time of the year – no, we’re not talking about the climate: no, this is about that special time when the garages are open, the engines are growling and racing tracks are once again put to good use.
But even earlier than this week, we had a few shakedown tests. The prequel to the pre-season, if you will. And two teams decided to treat us to some special liveries to mark the occasion – Red Bull and Alfa Romeo both ran unique testing liveries, masking their cars’ intricacies while offering the fans a welcome shot of variety.
But with them both joining the long line of testing liveries, can they be considered to be up there with the best of them? We’ll be ranking our top ten favourite test liveries, from eras far gone to the present day.
10 – Renault, 2002 pre-season testing
When we think back to Renault’s F1 beginnings, the original turbo era comes to mind. Alain Prost, unreliability, and yellow, white and black liveries were the main elements of Renault’s roots.
To celebrate their finally outright owning an F1 team for the first time since then the French manufacturer paid homage to their old-style liveries (no black though). Basic yet sleek, it would eventually be spruced up with dashes of blue.
9 – BAR, 2006 Friday running
Alright, so this one isn’t actually pre-season testing. But this unique 555 livery (part of British American Tobacco, team owners) replacing the usual Lucky Strike branding was a splendid sight to see.
It was used for Friday practice running, when third cars were permitted to be used by certain teams – Anthony Davidson was running the car in these colours at the inaugural Chinese Grand Prix.
8 – Red Bull, 2015 pre-season testing
Red Bull are no strangers to this ‘unique livery’ thing – they’ve done it four times now, and that’s excluding the one-off liveries they’ve tried out for size in races (the stunning Wings For Life designs in particular).
This black-and-white camo livery for 2015 was never going to be used full-time, as it was intended to hide important aspects of the car away from prying eyes. Not that it was all that useful, at least in this case; Red Bull came fourth in the 2015 standings.
7 – Spyker, 2007 pre-season testing
Spyker’s one-season stint in F1 may not have been bright, but their originally intended test livery certainly was. The strongest of orange tones, the Spyker in anything nearing sunny weather ended up looking red – not the result Spyker wanted.
The faux-Ferrari paint job was thrown to the scrapheap, in favour of a lighter shade of orange that would perfectly showcase the team’s Dutch flair. Fun Fact: they once led a race, Markus Winkelhock in the 2007 European Grand Prix.
6 – Williams, 2014 pre-season testing
Williams, for the last five years, have adorned a striking white Martini livery. It’s easy to forget that the Grove outfit’s adopted colour is actually blue – last seen on 2014’s barnstorming FW36.
The Martini deal was still to be negotiated when 2014 testing commenced, and so Williams ran this simple yet fetching dark blue design, signalling a back to basics approach that propelled the team back to the top of the grid. If they’ll ever get there again, we’ll have to see…
One of the two unique new designs we saw break this week, Alfa Romeo Racing’s hearts and clovers paint scheme was a reference to both Valentine’s Day and the team’s historic emblem.
The Hinwil-based team, finally ditching the iconic Sauber name for 2019, are hoping to make progress on their promising 2018 campaign. With a radical new design, maybe those hearts adorning it in the shakedown with foreshadow a lovely season ahead.
4 – McLaren, 2005 pre-season testing
McLaren brought back the iconic papaya colour schemes back full-time in 2017, but for many years the paint job was only used for test outings, like their 2005 title contender, MP4-20.
The striking presence the bright papaya gave was a stark contrast to the usual chrome and black McLaren were so synonymous for running in the Mercedes era, and it was always a refreshing sight.
3 – Red Bull, 2019 shakedown
Red Bull, as stated earlier, are no newbies to trying out a unique testing livery. This year’s such example centered around a striking red and dark blue combo, with everything made up of camo-esque lines designed to throw off prying eyes.
It marked the dawn of the Honda era, with Red Bull breaking away from previous suppliers Renault after a 12-year partnership. Can the Japanese manufacturer bounce back from their pain with McLaren, and create a winning combo with Red Bull?
2 – Renault, 2016 pre-season testing
The 2016 pre-season marked the third time Renaut would outright own its own F1 team (funnily enough, they re-purchased the team they sold to Genii Capital in 2010). And as such, they went back to basics with their livery.
2002’s homage missed out the black; 2016’s test livery was almost nothing but. There were yellow accents, but otherwise it was a smooth black paint job. When it came to actually racing the thing, Renault simply inverted the black and yellow colours.
1 – Red Bull, 2018 shakedown
Finding a top pick for this list was a hard one – the simplicity of the 2016 Renault, and the novelty of this year’s Red Bull were tempting, but it’s their design from last year that wins out.
The digital camo, designed in blue and grey, looks both menacing and stylish. It also compliments the car, helping to hide the halo while accentuating the main features of the body. It’s just a shame it was only used for one day…
Featured image courtesy of Getty images / RedBull Content Pool
It’s business as usual in the Red Bull garage as they have finally unveiled the racing livery for the RB15 ahead of the first session of winter testing which began in Barcelona this morning.
After an exciting week of livery reveals, Red Bull were the talk of the pit-lane by unveiling an unusual geometric livery ahead of the official ‘shake-down’ and filming day at Silverstone. It was made clear from Red Bull’s press release that the livery being displayed wasn’t set to last: “In recent years, we’ve chosen to kick off the year with some memorable paint jobs – but we revert back to our well established racing colours pretty quickly”.
The clarifications did not prevent fans disappointment as many had hoped the livery would have at least lasted until the end of pre-season testing, which begins today.
The traditional matte colour scheme remains, with the trademark charging bull along either side of the car. The livery has been updated slightly to reflect their partnership with Honda, however it doesn’t create much of a difference to the design overall.
Although it would have been nice to see Red Bull really shake things up with their livery, it doesn’t stop them shaking things up on the grid this season. The Red Bull has put on its racing suit – bring on 2019!
[Featured image – Thomas Butler / Red Bull Content Pool]
The 2019 F1 season is almost upon us, with winter testing starting in a couple of weeks and the Australian Grand Prix commencing next month. It’s the perfect time for five early predictions, some of which are pretty long shots.
1. Charles Leclerc will take three wins
Ferrari has a new kid on the block. Charles Leclerc spent his rookie season at Sauber, but from 2019 it’s time for his dream to come true. That could prove to be immensely stressful for the young Monegasque, but he may rise to the occasion and even take some wins. If Ferrari is at least on the same level as it was in 2018, then Leclerc could be able to snatch one, two, or even threewins in his first season with a big team, cementing his position at Maranello and proving his talent once again.
2. Nico Hulkenberg will take his first podium
It’s something of a mystery how Nico Hulkenberg, a driver who has been in teams with podium potential, has never finished in the top three. But, with Renault constantly improving and with a bit of luck (after all, it is needed as well), the Hulk could finally take that podium finish he truly deserves.
3. Red Bull-Honda will not be in the top three
The all-new collaboration between Red Bull and Honda is one of the hottest topics ahead of the new season, and rightfully so. Honda has proven to be a bit of a ‘wild one’, especially on the reliability front, and Red Bull could be its next victim. Everyone acknowledges the fact that Red Bull is great in designing an aerodymanically efficient car (Adrian Newey is still the best out there), but this could not be enough for them to stay in the top three. Maybe Renault could step up…
4. Alfa Romeo Racing will be in the top five
The Alfa Romeo-Sauber collaboration worked out perfectly for both sides during the 2018 campaign, with the team finishing seventh in the final standings. Now, with the all-new Alfa Romeo branding, Kimi Raikkonen on board and excellent technical staff, the prospect of them finishing in the top five is not such an absurd thought. After all, the backing from ‘sister’ team Ferrari is certain and could prove vital.
5. Mercedes will not be champions
Finally, the most bold of these predictions sees Mercedes not taking its sixth world championship in a row as a constryctor. Maybe Lewis Hamilton will be the drivers’ champion, but his team may be hurt by Valtteri Bottas’ incompetence. Ferrari has, on paper at least, a strong line-up, and so does Red Bull and Renault (if we count the French team as a real threat), so Mercedes is really on the ropes on this one.
Less than 40 days remain until the season opener in Albert Park, and the nine-month journey around the world begins for the F1 circus.
Not only did they take their sixth victory, it was Citroen’s 100th WRC victory. Poignant given the manufacturer is celebrating it’s 100th year since their first car was released.
Here’s the story of how it all came together.
Thursday evening after shakedown, saw two-night stages and they totalled just over 40km’s. There were some really tricky ice-covered parts, which meant that studded tyres were the way to go.
SS 1 – La Breole – Selonnet (20,76 km) was first up and we saw the world champion take care, setting the third fastest time, with Ott and Kris ahead in their Yaris WRC cars. Ten seconds covered the top three, with Loeb a further thirteen seconds back in fourth, making his first start in the i20. Elfyn also was going well, with Scott Martin alongside him sitting in sixth, it’s great to see two drivers from the UK going so well near the head of the field. Sadly, Teemu and Marko slid out on the first stage, after around three kilometres, but with overnight service, they would be able to return to the action on Friday.
SS 2 – Avançon – Notre Dame du Laus (20,59 km), saw some changes, with Thierry setting the fastest time and jumping up to third overall. Just behind him were the usual suspects of Ogier and Tanak, his rivals from last season. Sadly, Kris lost a minute in the stage, falling to seventh overall after he got a puncture. Elfyn maintained his sixth place, despite Lappi and Latvala passing him and moving into fourth and fifth.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 1 (Thursday)
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 26:33.0
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) +9.1
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +14.3
Lappi / Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +45.2
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +46.4
Evans / Martin (Ford Fiesta WRC) +48.2
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +53.8
Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) + 55.2
Mikkelsen / Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 WRC) +59.6
Tidemand / Floene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:41.1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (1st)
“It was a tough start to the rally tonight, as we were expecting. There were some extremely tricky and changeable conditions on the first stage, but I had a really good feeling in the car. It was still quite easy to feel the grip changes and this gave me good confidence. The second one was mostly dry asphalt which was a challenge with a mix of tyres, but we had a good run. Overall, I still think our tyre choice was the right one. Tomorrow will be a long day and we will be expecting more of the usual Monte challenges.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“It was very challenging conditions this evening, in the darkness with a mix of ice and damp patches. When the conditions are difficult like this the time differences can be quite big. In the first stage I lost a lot of time as I wasn’t that confident. I didn’t have those type of conditions in my test, so I was missing the feeling. But we got through and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow is another day and things can change very quickly in this event, so we need to be patient.”
Kris Meeke (7th)
“It was a tricky start to the rally with changing conditions, but I felt really confident with the car, I had a good feeling. On the second stage it was drier but it still felt nice to drive. Then for some reason we got a puncture. I don’t believe we hit anything. But we can’t let that get us down so early on a Rallye Monte-Carlo. I’m enjoying it and I’m confident in the car, so let’s see what the rest of the weekend brings.”
Citroen Total Racing
Sébastien Ogier (2nd)
“For my first two stages in the C3 WRC, clearly I’m pleased with the outcome, especially in these conditions. Perhaps I was bit too cautious on the first stage, but it’s difficult to really go for it when you are driving a new car competitively for the first time. But I certainly produced a decent time with the studded tyres on the second stage. I think that I made an intelligent start to the rally.”
Esapekka Lappi (4th)
“It was easy to make a mistake on tonight’s opening two stages, especially on SS1. I probably thought about that prospect a little too much and ended up being too cautious. We played it safe on the set-up as well. It was perhaps a little too soft. However, the confidence gradually came on SS2 and although there are already big gaps between the crews, I’m right in the mix, especially as there’s still a long way to go and plenty of things can happen yet!”
Thierry Neuville (3rd)
“We have started our season with the right mentality, trying to find our own direction and going with our feelings. The tyre choice this evening was a compromise. With the information we had, we felt we made a good choice, and at the end it was OK. I was perhaps expecting to gain more time on the second stage in the dry conditions but we didn’t, which was a shame. But it’s not too bad considering it’s so early in the rally. We will see what the weather does tomorrow and aim to stay in the fight for the win.”
Seb Loeb (8th)
“It has been good to make our debut as a Hyundai Motorsport crew, even if it was a tricky start. The opening has not been too bad, even if it is not easy to start in the night and in icy conditions. The first stage went OK but we didn’t select the best tyres for the second one and we suffered as a result of that. We perhaps underestimated the performance gap between the slick tyres and four snow tyres. We made it to the end and that’s the most important thing. Tomorrow, our aim is to get into a good rhythm on the slicks and take it from there.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (9th)
“A typically tricky start to Rallye Monte-Carlo! In the opening stage, about 1km from the finish, I thought the stage had ended and I started to back off. It was a silly mistake that cost us time. Other than that we just took things cautiously. The second stage was completely dry and we were on four winter tyres: we were sliding everywhere. We could have opted for crossed tyres but I don’t have much experience with this car in such conditions. We did the best we could.”
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“It’s been a typical start to Rallye Monte-Carlo with some really challenging conditions. We could have gone harder for sure, and I was kicking myself in a few places, but we delivered a clean run and are in a reasonably good position going into tomorrow – which is always the most important thing.”
Pontus Tidemand (10th)
“This car is amazing to drive, so I have to be clever and stop myself from pushing too hard! I really want to take the maximum, but I have to be careful as I need the experience from this rally and want to learn as much as I can.”
Also going well was Gus Greensmith.
Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro)
“That was a proper start to Rallye Monte-Carlo and I now understand why Malcolm [Wilson, M-Sport Managing Director] kept telling me to come and do this rally! The conditions were extremely tricky and even though we weren’t fully committed, we made it through. We’ll step it up tomorrow and aim to get back on the good pace we showed in shakedown.”
Friday would see the longest day, but unfortunately the problem with spectators in the wrong places on stage, meant that stage three – Valdrome – Sigottier 1 (20,04 km), the first on Friday morning, would be cancelled. These individuals should really think about what they are doing, as they are really spoiling the event for those who are doing the right thing.
The action therefore would start on SS 4 – Roussieux – Laborel 1 (24,05 km), and Seb Loeb took his first stage victory for Hyundai, with Thierry and Seb Ogier in second and third, rueing the fact he was on studded tyres. The Belgian was now leading and its fair to say that Hyundai had made the best tyre choice, with Loeb and Mikkelsen moving up the leaderboard as well.
Seb Ogier hit back in SS 5 – Curbans – Piegut 1 (18,47 km), winning the stage and passing Ott and moving into second place again, whilst further back Andreas and Jari-Matti jumped up to fifth and sixth, passing Lappi, Evans and Meeke, who were now in seventh, eighth and ninth overall.
Ogier also won SS 6 – Valdrome – Sigottier 2 (20,04 km), despite his tyre choice meaning he’d struggle with the car. In fact, Latvala set exactly the same time, so they shared the stage victory. By contrast, Esapekka hit trouble unfortunately breaking his suspension on a rock. This would result in the Finn having to retire from the rest of the day’s action. Thierry’s lead over the Frenchman was now just 1.4 seconds. Loeb, dropped a lot of time, with the result he’d fall from fourth to seventh, with Andreas, Jari-Matti and Kris all benefitting, moving ahead of the nine-time world champion.
Loeb won SS 7 – Roussieux – Laborel 2 (24,05 km), from Evans and Ogier and with Thierry a further 14 seconds behind, and Ogier took the overall lead. Loeb’s fastest time moved him up to third place as well, whilst Evans’ great time, meant he moved up into sixth place. Both Tanak and Meeke suffered drama’s losing huge time to the leaders and now Toyota’s best placed driver was Jari-Matti in fifth place, just seven seconds behind Mikkelsen.
The final stage of the day, SS 8 – Curbans – Piegut 2 (18,47 km), saw Thierry throw caution to the wind, winning from Tanak and Latvala, and with Ogier taking it carefully, after having no studs left in his tyres, and a super slippery stage, the Belgian reduced Ogier’s lead by twelve seconds! Also going well were Andreas and Jari-Matti who both moved up ahead again of Loeb, with Andreas now in third overall.
“Obviously, I’m pleased to end the day leading the rally after another really difficult day, where there were some really significant changes in the conditions and the rhythm from one stage to the next. We perhaps didn’t have the ideal tyre set-up for this afternoon, but we nonetheless managed to cope with that. I’m driving with confidence in the C3 WRC and our strategy of taking an intelligent approach to the rally has paid dividends thus far, since we haven’t made any mistakes at all. I’m going to try and keep it up, especially as tomorrow’s leg looks set to be very tricky again, particularly on Saint Léger Les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve.”
Esapekka Lappi (Rally2)
“Like several other crews, our tyre strategy was seriously compromised this morning when the first stage was cancelled as it had more or less dictated our choice of going with four studded tyres. Then at the start of the afternoon, I hit something hard on a corner, probably a rock. It immediately broke the suspension wishbone and we were unable to repair it. It’s obviously a shame but we’ll now look to use the rest of the rally to continue to get used to the C3 WRC. We might even try out a few set-up options that we wouldn’t have dared to attempt under normal circumstances.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“What a day! We had a good morning loop. The first stage was cancelled but we made the right tyre choice, and could catch some time back. Everything worked well: I was happy with my driving the pace notes were really good and I was confident in the car. Tyre choice has been key all day, as is to be expected at this rally. The start of the afternoon loop didn’t go as planned, as we approached a corner too fast and had to use the escape road. We lost around 19 seconds of time, which was frustrating because that mistake cost us the chance to hold the lead. We kept pushing hard and finished the day with a stage win to reduce the gap to Ogier. It certainly makes for an exciting rally! Thanks to our gravel crew for a great job today, which has allowed us to attack with full confidence. There’s still room for improvement.”
Andreas Mikkelsen (3rd)
“I am pleased to be in the provisional podium positions after another tough day. It is easy to make mistakes in these conditions so I am pleased to have had a clean and relatively competitive day. Tyre choice has been tough for everyone. We were helped with the cancelled stage first thing this morning but in the end, things turned out well. In the afternoon, it was hard to tell where we would compare with so many tyre variations being deployed. It’s a bit of cat and mouse in this rally, where you have to work out where you can find the advantage, or minimise the disadvantage. I think we’ve done that well today. We’re only halfway through the stages, so there’s a lot of hard work still ahead of us.”
Seb Loeb (5th)
“It has been good to secure my first stage wins in the Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC. It’s not so easy to win stages in the World Rally Championship so this is a nice feeling. We’ve had a pretty good day overall. We are at least still in the game, even if it’s not for the victory. In the opening loop, we opted for slick tyres, so we were helped by the first stage being cancelled. In the afternoon, it was a similar situation where we knew we would lose time on the first stage but then gained back in the others. The feeling in the car has been encouraging so we aim to continue with this rhythm on Saturday.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing
Jari-Matti Latvala (4th)
“Overall, I must say it was quite a positive day. I think we had a good strategy for this morning, but when they cancelled the first stage it affected us quite significantly. Still, I started to get a good feeling with the driving. This afternoon we played it safe and ran with four snow tyres on two of the stages. On SS7 we had a mix of tyres and I was maybe a bit too careful, but SS6 and SS8 on the snow tyres both went well and in general I’m happy. It’s good to be in the fight for the third place on the podium.”
Ott Tänak (7th)
“It has generally been quite a challenging day. This morning our strategy was based mainly on the first stage, so the cancellation meant that we no longer had a good tyre choice for the loop. This afternoon, the first stage was quite tricky with a mix of snow, slush, and dry road. Then on the next one we had a puncture, so we had to stop and change the tyre. The last stage was more of a consistent run for us. There is still a long way to go and we will do everything we can.”
Kris Meeke (8th)
“Our road position today was not ideal the drivers ahead were pulling lots of mud out onto the road, which was making it very slippery for me but we could still set some good times and gain some positions. Unfortunately, we then had the damaged wheel rim and we had to stop and change it. Nonetheless, I am really enjoying the driving after nine months away, and with a bit more luck we could be sitting in a podium place. Now we’re relying on others having problems, but we’re looking forward to what’s to come.”
Elfyn Evans (6th)
“We had a pretty good day behind the wheel, but were maybe just a little bit too brave on the tyre choice this afternoon. It’s all part of the game and it was certainly nice to get a feeling for the car on pure Tarmac with full Tarmac tyres again [on SS7]. The rest of the day has been pretty tricky and we lost a bit too much time on the icy sections, but that’s what this rally is all about. We’re still here, and we’ll keep at it tomorrow.”
Teemu Suninen (22nd / Rally 2)
“Of course, I always want to be faster, but I think we have had a good day getting through all of the kilometres and learning a lot about this rally. We took four slick and two studded tyres this afternoon which might have been a bit of a risk. On the first stage there was a long snow section – about seven or eight kilometres – and we lost a lot of time there; but on the other hand we were fourth fastest on the next stage where I would say we had the best possible tyre choice.”
Pontus Tidemand (40th / Rally 2)
“On the inside of a corner I was just following the line, but there was something there and it broke the wishbone. I don’t know what it was, but it was the same corner where Esapekka [Lappi] also had some damage. Before that the pace was getting better and better. It will take some time to get there, but I felt like everything was going in the right direction. For sure we are just here to learn, and we plan to continue that tomorrow.”
Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and 1st RC2)
“We had a bit of a tricky morning with some overheating issues which meant that we couldn’t always run in full stage mode. We lost a bit of time there, but we were still able to reduce the gap to class-leader Bonato. “This afternoon we decided to take quite a risky tyre choice with four slick and two snow tyres. We knew we would lose time on the first stage [SS6] and we lost 22 seconds to Bonato in there. But on the next one [SS7] we were able to take back 36 seconds, and on the last one [SS8] we pulled back 29 which means that we now have a six second class lead going into tomorrow. “The car feels really good, I feel really good, and we just need to keep doing the same thing tomorrow.”
Saturday started much better, with no cancelled stages. SS 9 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 1 (29,82 km) was won by Ott with Kris setting a great time, just four tenths slower and confirming he was feeling comfortable in the Yaris and with Seb Marshall doing a great job alongside him. Ogier increased his lead over Thierry to 5.6 seconds. Loeb moved back into third as Andreas was thirty seconds off the pace and Elfyn dropped one place to seventh, after getting a puncture, now behind Ott. Unfortunately, Esapekka retired with a mechanical problem. There was a huge accident for Andreas though after he lost control of his car, powering out of a corner and ripping the entire wheel and suspension from the left-rear. He was out.
Ott Tanak set a great time, taking his second stage win in a row in SS 10 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 1 (16,87 km), but it was the retirement of Elfyn which was such a shame. He lost control of the car on black ice, that pulled the car to the edge of the road and after that he and Scott were just passengers. He tried to power the car back onto the road, but ended up hitting a tree, which had the effect of spinning the car round and taking a wheel off as well. Jari-Matti passed Loeb, moving up into third place overall.
SS 11 – Agnières en Devoluy – Corps 2 (29,82 km) saw Ott take his third stage victory in a row, whilst the battle between Loeb and Latvala, saw the Frenchman move back into third overall, but there was only two seconds between them – This was certainly not over. Also, the gap between Neuville and Ogier remained very close at just around four seconds separating them.
Ott confirmed that the combination of him and the Toyota was now the best out there, winning SS 12 – St Léger les Mélèzes – La Batie Neuve 2 (16,87 km). He’d won every stage on Saturday, and Kris was second fastest again, just half a second from his teammate. Not only that, he’d reduced the gap to the front by sixteen seconds and was just a further sixteen seconds from third place.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 3 (Saturday)
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 2:38:30.0
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4.3
Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:58.7
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:01.0
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:16.0
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:26.8
Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +10:12.0
Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +11:43.4
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (1st)
“I’m pleased with my day, because once again today we had to find the right balance between pushing when it was dry and being cautious where it was icy and more slippery. But there’s still a long way to go. I’m expecting the final leg to be really close, but perhaps the conditions won’t be so tricky, although the top of the Col du Turini always throws up a few surprises. The C3 WRC has proven it is a competitive car on these roads, so I have high hopes that it will work well on tomorrow’s stages. Obviously, I’m going to try to win this rally, which means so much to me.”
Esapekka Lappi (DNF)
“Obviously, it’s a shame that we had this terminal issue with the engine, but it’s just part and parcel of racing. I hope to have a bit more luck in Sweden. In any case, I’m going to try and make the most of my two days of testing, so that I’m fully prepared and ready to fight on the fast stages of this event. It’s a rally that I really like.”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“Overall it has been a good day and the game is still very much on. We have lost 2.3s compared to Ogier over four stages, which is not too bad. It was difficult to know what rhythm was best on these stages. I know I could have gone faster in some places, especially this morning, but if you push too much it’s easy to make a mistake. I didn’t want to take any risks but at the same time we had to keep the pressure on Ogier. It is his home rally so he knows the area very well. We will, of course, try to win tomorrow but we also have to be clever and think about the bigger picture.”
Seb Loeb (3rd)
“We have been in a great battle with Jari-Matti today, one time he was ahead and then it was me, things were constantly changing over the four stages. I’ve enjoyed it. This morning I wasn’t completely comfortable with the set-up of the car, so we made some adjustments at lunchtime service, which gave me a better feeling. The Toyotas have shown good pace today so the battle for third place will be tough. I will do whatever I can to push for the podium on Sunday, but we’ll have to see if that’s enough. I hope we will have less ice and more dry tarmac so we can get the slicks on the car for the final stages!”
Andreas Mikkelsen (DNF)
“I am really disappointed but there are positives to take away. It had been such a good start to the rally, and the feeling with the car has been fantastic. Unfortunately, at the end of the opening stage I lost the rear in a right-hand corner and the impact damaged the left-rear wheel. Game over for us and not the result we were going for. I’m really sorry for that on behalf of the team. Now we have to look ahead. We have been on the pace, fighting for the podium and that’s what we will bring with us to Rally Sweden.”
“It’s been a great fight with Sebastien Loeb over third place today. At first, he was ahead, then I was ahead, and now he’s ahead again, but the gap is very small. I was hoping that I could have kept him behind, but when the conditions were mixed, I was maybe not so strong. It looks as though tomorrow’s stages could be drier: I’ve been doing a lot of testing on dry roads so I’m quite comfortable with the car in those conditions. Hopefully that works in our favour and we can be on the podium in Monte Carlo tomorrow.”
Ott Tänak (5th)
“It’s been a good day today: a normal day in the office. This afternoon we did something a bit different with the tyres compared to the others to try and gain some more time. In the end we gained a little bit, not much, but every bit helps. Thanks to my gravel crew who pushed me to do something different, because it paid off. The car has been nice to drive and it’s giving me confidence. We didn’t need to change the setup at lunchtime, and everything’s been working as it should. We’ve gained almost a minute back compared to the two guys in front, and I will keep pushing tomorrow.”
Kris Meeke (6th)
“Even though the conditions were tricky, I really enjoyed it today. The Yaris just seems natural to drive, it does what you want. I’m gradually building in confidence. We were really close to Ott’s times on a couple of the stages: Over 30 kilometres of snow, ice, greasy, slippery conditions there were only a few tenths of a second in it, so I’m happy to be there or there about already. I’ve still got a bit to learn about the car, but when it comes so naturally, it bodes well for the future. When we get to the powerstage we’ll give it a go and see what we can do.”
Elfyn Evans (DNF)
“The first stage this morning [SS9] started off okay, but we picked up a puncture which was pretty unlucky. It was on the rear in a cut that everyone else had been in. It was just one of those things, and we made the decision to continue which I think was right in terms of time. “Then on the next stage [SS10] there was a pretty straight forward left-hander that’s been around for a number of years. I didn’t approach it any differently to how I usually would, but it seems as though the grip levels were particularly low. “Maybe there was some black ice as a few cars got caught out, but they were a lot luckier than us. There was quite a steep bank with some trees on the outside, the car got dragged down, and that’s where our Rallye Monte-Carlo came to the end. “Everyone comes to a rally with the best intentions, and it definitely wasn’t part of the plan to start the year on the bad note. All of our attentions are now fully focused on the next event and we’re looking forward to getting back on it in Sweden.”
“Today was a pretty good day for us and we didn’t make any mistakes. We showed good pace this morning, but in the afternoon, I was too careful. I was concentrated on looking after the studs, but actually the ice layer had become so thin that the studs didn’t give any extra grip. But I think I can be happy with my day and how my pace has improved throughout the weekend.”
Pontus Tidemand (24th)
“We have seen some very tricky conditions today so I’m glad to be here. We had a slow puncture after six kilometres in the first stage this morning [SS9] and, as we only had one spare, we took it really carefully after that. “It’s so easy to make a mistake in these conditions so I tried to be on the safe side this afternoon as well. We need time in the car to learn, and it was important to make sure that we continue to get more experience tomorrow.”
Gus Greensmith (1st WRC 2 Pro and RC2) said:
“Three out of four stage wins, so I would call that a good day. I’ve had this calm, quiet confidence with the car today I’ve never had before; and I’ve felt as though I can control the pace exactly as I want to. “I took the first two stages quite easy as I knew that they were tricky, but I was still able to open the lead from six to twenty seconds. We had a bit of a blip in the first stage of the afternoon [SS11] where I lost five seconds, but we were back on it for the last one [SS12]. “After Bonato made a mistake the lead went up to over a minute and a half so we’ve given ourselves a nice buffer for tomorrow. We don’t need to do anything silly. We can be conservative with the tyre choices and bring it home for the win.”
The first stage, SS 13 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 1 (18,41 km) saw Ott continue to fly, winning the stage from Thierry who was starting to apply some pressure to Ogier as the gap between them at the top was now 3.3 seconds. Were we about to witness a similar result to last years Rally de Italia…? Loeb was losing time as well, as the gap to Ott was now just five seconds after the Frenchman lost eleven and a half seconds.
Ott conquered SS 14 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 1 (13,58 km) as well, winning again and moving ahead of Loeb into third place from fifth! He’d jumped both Jari-Matti and Loeb in one stage! Ogier was driving with a problem with his throttle, and pretty much held off Thierry in this one, but how would he fare in the longer stage that followed?
Thierry won SS 15 – La Bollène Vésubie – Peira Cava 2 (18,41 km), bringing Ott’s run to an end and cutting Ogier’s lead to just four tenths of a second. The gaps behind were pretty static now, with Ott over two minutes behind Thierry, Loeb a further seven seconds behind and Jari-Matti three seconds behind Loeb. Despite having to restart under Rally2 regs, Suninen and Tidemand were in the points as well.
The final stage then, SS 16 – La Cabanette – Col de Braus 2 – Power Stage (13,58 km), and Kris set the best time from Ogier and Neuville. Seb and Julien had done it, with the gap between them and Thierry and Nicolas just 2.2 seconds!
Ogier / Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3:21.15.9
Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2.2
Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:15.2
Loeb / Elena (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:28.2
Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:29.9
Meeke / Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +5:36.2
Greensmith / Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5) +13:04.6
Bonato / Boulloud (Citroën C3 R5) +13:56.5
Citroën Total WRT
Sébastien Ogier (1st)
“We certainly weren’t taking anything for granted. The final leg, in particular, was really stressful and difficult with our minor throttle issue, which meant the car kept on accelerating, even under braking. We got some good advice from the team and were able to perform some makeshift repairs on the road section. We then pushed really hard and, in the end, it worked out! It was an incredibly intense weekend. It was a non-stop battle, but we managed to come away with the win. Obviously, we’re very proud of this result in our first race with the C3 WRC, especially because, as I’ve often said, this rally is the one that is the most special for me. And it also means we can celebrate Citroën’s centenary in style. In other words, we couldn’t have hoped for a better start on our first race back with the team!”
Thierry Neuville (2nd)
“What an incredibly close fight! We can be pleased with this result, which gets our 2019 campaign off to a very positive start. Of course, when you are in with a chance of fighting for Monte-Carlo victory, you want to push for it but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. We gave it everything we had but a small mistake on Friday cost us the lead and we weren’t quite able to catch it back. That’s part of the game. We enjoyed the weekend a lot even if it wasn’t easy. We can now look ahead to Sweden, where we will be second on the road, ready for another nice battle. Thanks to the whole team for a great weekend in tricky conditions at times.”
Seb Loeb (4th)
“It has been an exciting weekend for WRC with an incredible battle for the victory and the podium. Fourth place is not so bad. I struggled with the set-up of the car on occasions, which is to be expected with such little time to test before the event. We made adjustments in between each loop in an effort to find our way, and we made good progress. We have to continue like this and see what we can achieve in Sweden. To be fighting for the podium in my first event for Hyundai Motorsport gives us all the motivation we need for the next rally. It’s a pleasure to be part of this team, and a positive way to start a new relationship.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT
Ott Tänak (3rd)
“I am very pleased with this podium. After Friday I didn’t have such high hopes. I’m surprised we could catch all this time back on asphalt in relatively dry conditions. We had a good run this morning and then we just had to maintain our position to the finish. I’m really happy with the team, with my gravel crew and with the car. We did a perfect job on Saturday and Sunday and we should all feel proud of ourselves.”
Jari-Matti Latvala (5th)
“It was a close fight for the whole weekend, but I wasn’t at my best, I must say. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t take fourth place today. But I realise now that I made a mistake in our test and I developed the wrong sort of setup for the rally. Because of that, my car was understeering too much for my driving style, and the confidence wasn’t there to go faster. But we had a clean weekend with no errors and we have scored some good points, which is important to start the season. We know that the car is capable of winning.”
Kris Meeke (6th)
“To win the Power Stage was an incredible way to finish our first rally with Toyota. We only set one fastest time this weekend but we did it when it counted. Other drivers were still fighting for their positions until the end, so to put it on the line and come away with the five points is great. We had technical issues this weekend that affected our result – fourth might have been possible – but to show our speed is really nice. The feeling with the car is really good. Finally, everything seems to be coming together for me, but we’re only one rally in, so we have to stay concentrated now and look forward to Sweden.”
Teemu Suninen (11th)
“It’s a shame that we went off on the first stage because the rest of the rally has been really good. But we got a lot of good experience and I had some pace on the snow sections. The more we learnt, the more we were able to build our pace and I was happy to get a Power Stage point today – beating Latvala and Loeb who were both fighting for position.”
Pontus Tidemand (20th)
“This car is amazing to drive and I have had a lot of fun this weekend. I’ve learnt a lot and need to thank the team and my route note crew for a really good job. We’ll analyse where we were good and where we weren’t quite so good. On the slippery sections we set some really fast splits, but on the dry Tarmac we weren’t on the pace and I need more time behind the wheel to use the full potential of the car. But it was good to get the kilometres and the experience. And we’ll have a good test before Rally Sweden where I hope to show another improvement.”
WRC 2 Pro Winner
“I’m pretty sure this is the best day of my life so far! It took us a while to get here, but it’s an amazing feeling and there are so many people I need to thank. It was almost a perfect rally from beginning to end and we did everything we needed to do. When we needed to push and build a gap, we did. And when we needed to control it, we did. It’s definitely been my best ever performance behind the wheel, and now I’m just looking forward to a beer and letting it all sink in!”
“It’s been a brilliant rally back with Gus and we couldn’t have asked for any more. Monte is always a challenge so I can’t say it was easy, but we managed the whole weekend really well. We showed speed when we had to, and were more cautious when we could afford to be. We couldn’t have asked for a better start and here’s hoping for more good results as the season continues!”
Just incredible. Clearly, 2019 has picked off from where 2018 ended. The three fastest crews are the same. Also, we can see how that group could grow, with Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall and Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin looking comfortable in their cars.
Next up is Rally Sweden, from the 14th to 17th of February.