Kalle Rovanperä knows it.
Three consecutive fourth place finishes in a row isn’t the form anybody expected of him this season. Not least himself.
Particularly when you remember that between rounds two and four last year, Rovanperä wasn’t ever off the top step, never mind the podium altogether.
But this year’s World Rally Championship title fight is a very different affair to that of 12 months ago.
While Rovanperä proved untouchable on his way to becoming considerably the youngest ever world champion in WRC history, all of his main rivals suffered early setbacks – mechanical, driver-induced or otherwise – that allowed Rovanperä to disappear into the distance.
This time around, nobody’s been perfect. But nobody’s dropped the ball either.
It means heading into this weekend’s Rally Portugal, just 11 points separate the top five in the championship. And one point splits the top three!
Rovanperä knows he has work to do to hit top gear, but is taking solace from the fact he is so firmly in the race despite not being at his best.
“Yeah it is,” he said when DirtFish pointed out how tight the race is.
“The main point is that we are still in the fight really well. So yeah, the only way is up hopefully from here because we haven’t been on our best yet.
“So of course we will try to be getting the proper pace and results. But yeah, it’s really interesting.
“I don’t know when it has been three cars from the same team in between one point. I think it’s quite, quite proper.”
Asked if the intensity of the 2023 title fight has altered his approach, Rovanperä admitted he has been playing the percentage game so far this season.
“I have always tried to be clever the last few years and yeah, this year we have already been thinking about it,” he said.
“We are in the fight even though we had some difficult rallies. If we would have pushed too much and lose the points we would be far back.
“We have been still quite steady, even in the tricky conditions, opening the road and stuff, to push and take all the points that we can.”
The world champion hasn’t won a rally since becoming world champion seven months ago now in New Zealand, but he’s not feeling any pressure to start winning.
“I’m not really worried about that,” Rovanperä declared. “It will come when it comes, hopefully.
“I’m just disappointed for myself. I don’t really care what others say, I want to win for myself.”