Motorsport can be an odd workplace at times. Drivers enter championships to win titles for themselves, but at the same time they need to also win championships for the team that employs them.
It’s a tricky balance to strike. Drivers have to get the best of both worlds, maximizing their own opportunities while also still being a team player.
That balance only gets tougher when your team-mate has a different driving style to you. It means drivers want to pull in opposite directions so they can each get the most out of their given car.
In the past, that has sometimes been the case at Hyundai. Andreas Mikkelsen, and even nine-time world champion Sébastien Loeb, struggled to feel the same things from the i20 Coupe WRC as Thierry Neuville.
But there’s no such problem this year.
Esapekka Lappi might be the new kid on the block when it comes to driving for Hyundai, but he’s quickly settled in and is pulling his weight when it comes to teamwork.
In fact, he’s gelled so well that, right now, he’s more comfortable with the i20 N Rally1 than Hyundai lifer Neuville.
“We are constantly changing things on the car and obviously we followed a bit Ott [Tänak]’s approach last year,” Neuville told DirtFish when asked why he’s struggling with the car more than Lappi.
“I was always looking for something stiffer and more reactive, which we got now, but obviously I adapted to the softer car driving wise and now I have to come back to what I was used to driving in the past.
“And therefore, I was a bit off balance, and it got better during the [Sardinia] weekend.”
Intriguingly then, Lappi and Neuville appear to have a very similar driving style which means their needs are similar too.
“I learned a lot from [Tänak] as well on the technical side. However yeah, our driving style was different,” Neuville added.
“With EP we are more on a similar philosophy, so I think it’s going in a good direction.”
And that direction was evidenced last time out in Sardinia, when Neuville decided to follow Lappi’s setup approach after the Finn found something in the dampers in his pre-event test.
“We made completely, not completely, but a new setting which felt really good already in Finland on the small road,” Lappi explained.
“And then I took a risk.
“I take it here as I felt I don’t want to go with the same setting which we had in Portugal because we know what’s the speed with that.
“So I wanted to try something else and it’s working.”
And when asked if Neuville is benefitting from Lappi’s development worked, Lappi didn’t shy away from answering.
“He took the same setting, same new parts, same dampers. So yes, he is.”