Thierry Neuville defends rivals use of team orders in Finland
Current World Rally Championship points leader, Thierry Neuville, has defended the use of team orders by his M-Sport rivals, insisting Hyundai would have done the same had they been in a similar situation.
The the M-Sport Ford team shuffled Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen down the order to elevate Neuville's main title rival Sébastien Ogier up the order to fifth, four places ahead of Neuville, who had earlier lost time running first on the road during Friday's stages.
But his team was not able to offer the same support as Ogier got, after Andreas Mikkelsen rolled out of contention on the opening day and Hayden Paddon was too fast to be of any real benefit to his team-mate.
The New Zealander was fourth, more than two minutes ahead of Neuville, so dropping him back would have actually allowed Ogier to cut the points deficit to Neuville even more. In the end the Frenchman narrowed Neuville's lead by six points to 21, a gain slightly offset by Neuville setting a faster time on the power stage. He was fourth fastest for two extra points, while Ogier missed fifth and one bonus point by 0.012 seconds.
"I would love to have that help," the Belgian said. "At least Craig Breen helped me in the power stage by getting between me and Ogier. It's satisfying after the battle and considering the help Ogier got.
"We limited the damage and we take 21 points to Germany. M-Sport played their strategy. If they did not do this then he would be seventh and I would be ninth. This is part of the rally, it's completely OK to do that and we would do exactly the same. The result we got here, it's not good - but it's not so bad either."