M-Sport is keeping its 2022 driver options very much open as team principal Rich Millener has admitted “every P1 driver in the last few years that’s been successful” is on the team’s list.
The WRC driver market has become a hot topic far earlier in the season than normal after Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak both committed themselves to Hyundai in May.
M-Sport was known to be keen on Tänak’s services in particular, but now faces fewer options for one of the championship’s recognized major players with the Estonian’s signature on Hyundai paperwork.
Despite this setback, M-Sport remains in talks with several drivers and is keen to make a decision sooner rather than later.
Asked on Wednesday ahead of this weekend’s Rally Italy who M-Sport was looking at recruiting for 2022, Millener said: “It would be silly to say that we’re not considering all options. Two of them have gone, that’s for sure, so there are still other options.
“Elfyn [Evans] would be great, there’s some stories about him wanting to continue with Toyota and he’s just won a rally from there and has a team built around him that’s fantastic. It would be lovely to have him back in the team but it’s a big ask to see if he would come, and I think it’s clear from the press what Seb wants to do – again, stay with the team.
“So some of the options for those kinds of drivers are looking difficult but there’s lots of drivers out there that people would consider and check that we’re interested in or talking to so I don’t want to give too much away obviously but we talk to everyone we can to understand what we can do.
“I don’t think we’re in a position right this minute to say any more than that.”
Pressed on when M-Sport might make its decision, Millener admitted “we would like to get some structure in place as soon as we can” because of the complexities of the new hybrid Rally1 car.
“It’s going to be a different strategy, a different way of driving the car so it will be important for them to have as much time as possible,” he said. “So the longer we leave it the harder it is for those drivers. That’s all I would say.”
Evans was also asked about his own future, but given the intense schedule between Portugal two weeks ago and Italy this weekend, he hasn’t had a chance to sort anything out.
He didn’t however completely rule out a move back to M-Sport; the team which he drove for in the WRC for five seasons.
“I think normally it would be quite early to talk about these kinds of things but of course Ott and Thierry made their moves quite early and it’s in everybody’s interest I guess to move forward with the 2022 development of regulations,” said Evans.
“So I guess discussions will happen sooner than normal, but just at this moment I’ve tried to focus on these two events and maybe after that we can think about it a bit more.”
Quizzed if it would be a good idea to leave Toyota, Evans said: “I don’t know, who knows.
“Obviously with a new set of regulations, you know, everybody’s starting essentially from a clean sheet of paper. I have to say I’m very happy where I am, things are working really well inside the team so yeah, let’s see how it goes.
“I’m happy where I am and of course the team is doing great things. So, of course, it’s a question I will have to ask myself for sure moving forward.”
Andreas Mikkelsen is another driver heavily linked with an M-Sport drive. But when asked if the team is speaking to the Norwegian, Millener reiterated that every driver that is contractually available is being considered.
“He’s done a good job in WRC2, he’s made it clear he would like to be in WRC but yeah, there’s nothing more than that at the moment,” said Millener about the Mikkelsen rumors.
“There’s a list of names, he would be on the list of names but then again every P1 driver in the last few years that’s been successful would be on that list as well.
“We haven’t made any decisions outside of that at the moment to be honest.”