Toyota team principal Tommi Mäkinen believes that this year’s World Rally Championship could have been “boring” had Ott Tänak stayed with the team after his world title win a year earlier.
Nobody has outscored any of Toyota’s three full-time WRC drivers this season, with Hyundai Motorsport’s reigning champion the closest to that feat by matching the points haul of rookie Kalle Rovanperä.
Tänak’s departure came as a surprise after the Estonian finally broke Sébastien Ogier’s hold on the WRC crown, but it made sense to Mäkinen, who won the WRC title four times with Mitsubishi before leaving for Subaru in 2002 in search of a new challenge.
“When I spoke with Ott Tänak [last year], Ott mentioned that he would like to look at other [teams]. I said completely openly and friendly that I remember from when I was there driving, I was always thinking and looking where to go,” Mäkinen told DirtFish.
“It’s their life. And a career is normally not such a long [thing] anyway. And of course, if you want to go be somewhere, like I imagined of Ott, if you feel comfortable to be somewhere then you need to do it.
“I have been looking at it always like when I was there [driving]. I was looking at the bigger picture and what is best and how it is.
“If you look at our current team, we have a strong team even if we lost the reigning world champion. We’re still in front of him [now], and the game is very interesting.
“I would say that if Ott could have continued with us, it could have been more boring, basically.”
Mäkinen believes Tänak’s Hyundai switch isn’t necessarily about achieving success straight away, but a new long-term challenge.
“A new car is challenging, [and there are] new challenges for many different drivers [this year]. It’s basically very keen and positive, and many drivers getting new challenges and always something to learn, and not throwing away [something] so strong. It’s always something to learn.”