Esteban Guerrieri hails champion Norbert Michelisz after title defeat

Esteban Guerrieri has praised World Touring Car Cup title rival Norbert Michelisz following the duo’s memorable showdown at Sepang this weekend.

Guerrieri and Honda took the fight to pre-event championship leader Michelisz of the BRC Hyundai squad down to the wire, with the title not decided until the very last race of the season.

Guerrieri and Michelisz shared the front row of the grid for Sunday’s all-decisive finale, with Guerrieri initially snatching the lead and looking on course to upstage Michelisz’s title dreams.

However, Guerrieri was later bumped off the track by Cupra’s Mikel Azcona as they disputed the lead on lap five, triggering Guerrieri’s subsequent retirement after his radiator got blocked with grass.

Azcona was handed a 30-second post-race penalty for the incident, dropping the Spaniard off the podium.

Guerrieri’s fate meant Michelisz could seal his first world title, and although inevitably disappointed, Guerrieri was quick to praise his rival following a closely fought season.

“First, congratulations to this guy (Michelisz),” said Guerrieri. “I know him very well and he is a very nice guy. As fast as he is on track, as good a person he is, so I’m really happy for him.

“I really enjoyed all the year to be honest. I am glad to be sitting here, to be able to fight for the championship, so I’m just thankful to life for this opportunity. I did everything today, and I enjoyed so much driving this weekend in these [mixed] conditions. To the last lap in Race 3 it was one of the best weekends so I’m happy to have this opportunity.

“Of course, I would be happier to win the championship, but I am thankful to life for what it gives me.”

Guerrieri ends up 23 points behind Michelisz in the 2019 WTCR standings, improving on his third place in 2018.