Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville isn’t a fan of the new hybrid regulation change that has been introduced ahead of this weekend’s Croatia Rally.
With multiple teams suffering as a result of hybrid failures that were outside of their control on the opening two World Rally Championship events, the FIA has amended the regulations so that drivers will now receive a two-minute penalty instead of 10 at the end of the stage on which the failure occurs.
But while a number of team principals, including M-Sport’s Rich Millener and Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala, have expressed their happiness at the introduction of this new rule, Neuville is frustrated that it is being introduced partway through the season.
“I have never been a real fan of changing regulations during a season,” said Neuville. “I don’t see the reason behind that.
“Again, as mentioned for many other things already, it’s a pity that sometimes we think about things which we know before, but we only act when something happens if it’s for safety or for technical regulations or whatever.
“And it’s a pity because I think there are things, we are well aware that if there could be some issues, that the penalty could be huge.
“I mean we drivers have mentioned very often that it would be a shame to retire from a rally because the red light comes on, without being sure there is a real issue or not. However, a decision has been taken.
“I think all manufacturers have agreed, but if you look back for example on Ott’s result in Sweden I think with the application of the new regulations he could have finished sixth instead of being out of the points.
“So, somehow, yeah. Is it right to change now, or not? I’m not sure.”
Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak also added that he believes the wrong element is being focused on. Rather than changing what happens if there is a failure, he feels more effort should be made to ensure there are no issues in the first place.
“My view is that we are really focusing in a very wrong place at the moment, as the guys are focusing on what happens when we get the red [light], but the focus should be that we don’t get the red [light],” said Tänak.
“It’s quite a funny situation, because I had to retire in Sweden because of the red [light] situation, and still now they can’t give us the reason why I had to retire.
“It’s a strange situation, and other than that today I think the target is definitely to have today and now the hybrid box which is OK to do rallying.
“Rallying is a tough sport, it’s not circuit, it’s not flat roads in a rally. It’s hard and rough, so also the hybrid box needs to be made for rallying. Otherwise, I don’t see how it will survive.”
But while the two Hyundai drivers are frustrated by the introduction of the new penalty regulation, Toyota’s Elfyn Evans believes that regardless of the regulation change or not, someone was always going to feel hard done by and there’s no easy resolution.
“I think we all knew that this would be a potential issue come the start of the year with a sort of an off the shelf – it’s not an off the shelf part but it’s the same for everyone – external supplier as it were.
“It’s then always going to seem a bit more harsh when it’s something outside of the team’s control.
“I don’t know if there is a true solution to it, with the regulations and the way things are.
“It was always going to be difficult, and it’s always going to be hard when somebody has to retire because of a hybrid issue. But I don’t think there’s a right or wrong penalty in a way.
“Certain circumstances are going to, you know, if you grant somebody no penalty and they obviously haven’t completed the stages when they’ve had to stop. So that’s not fair neither that they could potentially, you know, come here on the rally and still have results.
“So, you know, it’s never gonna be… it’s very difficult to come up with a perfect solution.”