Thierry Neuville was careful with his words. Understandably. Two cars in the top five and one on the podium on the Monte Carlo Rally didn’t constitute a disaster – but according to his team principal Andrea Adamo, it simply wasn’t good enough.
The Italian was critical of both himself and his team’s preparations for the season opener and the Alzenau-based squad’s performance in Gap.
At the time, Adamo said: “Preparation for Monte Carlo was not done in the way it should have been and neither the management of the rally itself. I’m not chasing for excuses or making silly reasons I’m just watching what’s going on and try to find solutions to make things better.
“There are many reasons and many things if I list all of the things, you will see we have done many mistakes altogether in one rally.”
Adamo wasn’t to be tackled on this. And who were we to tackle him, when he’d seen the Monte Carlo Rally from the inside? But I did feel the self-flagellation was a touch unnecessary; Ott Tänak had led the event and Neuville finished on the podium. It wasn’t like the i20 Coupe WRC had fallen off a cliff in terms of performance.
Neuville and I were of the same mind. He chose his words carefully.
“I start,” he said, “to know my boss more and more. I need to be careful what I say, but I think the reaction of the Monte Carlo was maybe a little bit too much compared to the final result.
“We knew that with a new co-driver [in Martijn Wydaeghe] we couldn’t expect the impossible. Ott [Tänak] obviously had a bad weekend, but still there was some performance – we could have been on the podium with two cars, maybe.
“And we showed some great speed on some stages, but unfortunately we didn’t get the final result. We were only at the first race of the season, so now we fight back – for sure, also thanks to Andrea. He put some people in the right places, back on the good line and they gave us drivers the opportunity to be a lot in the car and it paid off.
“So we have to say thanks to everybody in the team, but we are only round two and now round three is approaching and we need to be as good as or even better than here [in Finland].”
What did the man himself think? What was Adamo’s appraisal?
Let’s be honest, Hyundai Motorsport’s result in Finland was a strong one, beating Toyota at home for the first time in the current generation of World Rally Cars.
How did he turn the tables on the championship leader?
Cue Andrea: “Sometimes, to beat a lion you need to be a tiger.”
So, how did Adamo turn tiger in the month between Monte and Arctic Rally Finland, where Tänak won and Neuville and Breen were third and fourth?
“In my role after a rally like Monte Carlo you have to question yourself,” he said. “What you have done wrong and what you have to do better. Before we came to Finland, I saw a different approach from all my people, driver and crews and it was something that was important for me.
“You can win or not, but the approach gives you the winning mentality. And I think this time we won, we did not just arrive first to the finish.
“I saw a big team fightback. This is the most important thing I bring back home because a win can happen, but the mental approach, the determination is something that is more important.”