The Belgian, 24, scored a career best third but almost threw it away on Sunday’s opening test when he slid into a ditch after misjudging a corner whilst in pursuit of Hirvonen.
Neuville began the final day 7.5sec adrift of his Citroen rival and with the green light from his Qatar team boss to go for broke.
“Malcolm [Wilson] told me to push and I tried hard until 15 kilometres where we were equal [with Mikko],” he said. “Then I made a mistake and I knew we must just finish the day for the team.”
Neuville was lucky to emerge from the ditch with his car undamaged, but dropped more than 20 seconds and settled for third. Despite losing the gamble on this occasion, the youngster said he had no regrets.
“I slept well and my head was clear to push. I knew it was the right choice. I think, okay, sometimes you take a decision and I decided to push.”
Neuville’s performance was one of the most impressive of the weekend on only his third appearance in a Ford Fiesta RS. “Honestly, I have to say I felt confident in the car and, after qualifying, I thought we could find the pace and be competitive,” he said.
Asked whether he would be aiming for more podiums this year, Neuville added: “It will be very difficult against Sebastien Ogier but I will try on the tarmac rallies. We are working hard to prepare the car and be competitive.”