Stood in the service area after Sébastien Ogier had just claimed a record-breaking Monte Carlo Rally victory, Toyota team principal Jari-Matti Latvala came out with a surprising yet fascinating comment.
It’s his belief that Ogier no longer has the same killer instinct.
I can sense you’re already starting to laugh that comment out of the room. But once you take into account the full context of what Latvala means, it actually starts to make a bit of sense.
“Séb has got more relaxed over the years,” Latvala told DirtFish.
“He doesn’t necessarily have that killer instinct – it’s still there, but he’s more… I would say he understands as well that there are other people working hard so that they can win.
“So it’s a team sport.”
Those comments were made after David Evans said to Latvala that it was nice to see Ogier hugging his co-driver Vincent Landais and handing him the champagne first.
It demonstrated how Ogier’s mindset is different now he’s no longer fighting for a championship.
When Latvala says that Ogier has lost the killer instinct, in no way is he suggesting that he’s lost his pace. It’s obvious to see that he’s still just as quick as anyone and were he still competing full-time he would be a championship contender. There’s no doubt about it.
In many ways, he’s now competing in the World Rally Championship for fun.
Yes, there’s a job to do once he’s on event, but he’s driving for pleasure and not with the task of winning a record-equalling ninth title.
In that scenario, Ogier would only look out for himself – as would any other driver in that position. There’s one target to achieve, and that’s to win at all costs.
But that’s not the only way Ogier’s killer instinct is allegedly dwindling.
Latvala also highlighted another element that would be detrimental to Ogier, contributing to the loss of the killer instinct – his eyes.
It’s inevitable that as you get older, your eyesight loses its strength to a certain degree, and that’s where Latvala feels Ogier lost out on Saturday’s evening stage, when he lost 9.8 seconds to Kalle Rovanperä.
“OK Ogier lost on the last stage [on Saturday],” said Latvala.
“Kalle was fast, but partly I tell you my opinion is this: I know it myself, I’m 37, my eyesight is not as good in the darkness anymore.
“The young eyes vs the older eyes, that is the fact that he is able to take a bit more risks but that’s why the gap was bigger, but it won’t be in the daylight the same anymore.”
And Latvala says it’s not just limited to himself and Ogier. It’s a fact of getting older.
If you accept Latvala’s premise, then that performance just highlights how great a driver Ogier really is
“It’s just the nature of what is happening with us and especially because now there’s more restrictions with the testing you can drive less.
“That also affects for everything that you are basically not that comfortable, when you go out the comfort zone it is the darkness.”
But if Latvala is right and Ogier has lost his killer instinct, you certainly wouldn’t know it by his driving.
He was blisteringly fast on Monte’s stages, winning half of the stages (nine from 18), and there were times where the rest of the field just simply couldn’t keep up with him.
It was nothing short of a ruthless performance.
If you accept Latvala’s premise, then that performance just highlights how great a driver Ogier really is.
He might not be as quick on night stages anymore, he might be thinking more about others, looking at the bigger picture, but he can still go out and win one of the most challenging WRC events there is.
And that’s where age also comes into play. He may have lost some sharpness as he’s got older (if he has, it’s very minimal), but as he’s aged he’s also bagged experience, and it’s that which is allowing him to outfox the young contenders.
The killer instinct may well be softening, but don’t doubt for a second Ogier has lost his touch.
His bite might not be so hard, but it’s still just as lethal.