M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson has admitted that he is concerned about the “diminishing” number of top drivers still available for the 2022 World Rally Championship season.
With Hyundai renewing the contracts of both Ott Tänak and Thierry Neuville on multi-year deals and Sébastien Ogier retiring from full-time WRC competition at the end of the year, only Elfyn Evans from the WRC’s recognized four title contenders is yet to agree a contract.
And on the eve of Rally Portugal, Wilson admitted that the lack of available drivers was a concern, although the team are still talking to a number of individuals.
When asked how many drivers that are available are capable of leading the M-Sport line-up, Wilson said: “They are certainly diminishing on a daily basis, that’s for sure, but yeah there is I still believe people out there that can lead the challenge should we say.
“We are still in discussions with various people, but we’ve got some good young guys coming through as well and I think everyone knows that we’ve worked with young guys in the past, so it’s a particular path that I enjoy, so let’s see what happens in the next couple of months.”
Although Ogier won’t be contesting a full campaign in 2022, he is open to a bit-part season and if Wilson is unable to find a suitable candidate to lead M-Sport, he would also be open to working with the seven-time champion again.
Ogier drove for M-Sport in 2017 and ’18 and won two drivers’ championships as well as the manufacturer’s crown in 2017.
The plan is now quite soon to start negotiating with him, what is the specific rallies he would like to do.Jari-Matti Latvala on 2022 Ogier discussions
“I think the priority for sure would be to try and get a top driver and do what we did back in 2017/2018,” Wilson said.
“If we can’t achieve that and Sébastien does decide to do a limited program, then for sure.
“Obviously we’ve worked very well together in the past, so it’s something we’d look at, but I have to say, my hopes, my main target is to try and get someone who can lead the team for the whole season.”
M-Sport isn’t the only team chasing Ogier’s services next year, with current employer Toyota also in talks with him.
“He already himself has said he would like to do some events next year and yes briefly we have spoken about it,” said team principal Jari-Matti Latvala. “But the plan is now quite soon to start negotiating with him, what is the specific rallies he would like to do.
“Of course if we would know the calendar for next year also it would help us to plan and then when he says which events he wants then we can also look who is going to be the driver then doing the other events which he doesn’t do.”
Ogier himself hinted that he’s likely to remain with Toyota: “My dream is to stay with Toyota but I want to do Le Mans, like you know!” he said.
“But there is nothing, that discussion have barely started yet as we were very focused on this year, but my wish is to stay with the team. I often mention that I would love to have a chance to go circuit racing and to participate in Le Mans. I’m not sure if that will be feasible yet or not and from next year on already or not but that’s something I would wish.
“And about rallies, it is true that I’m not closing the doors to still do some rallies maybe, but so far the only one I said it would be was Monte Carlo so about more, we need definitely to discuss at some point with the team to see what is the strategy for the future, and what the strategy is for the driver line-up and how I could fit into that.”