Ott Tänak believes he and his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 are currently “a bit of a mis-match”.
Following a standout victory in Sweden, Tänak led the World Rally Championship standings ahead of the third event of his M-Sport return, Rally México.
But his weekend quickly unraveled with a turbo problem on Friday morning that cost him 12 and a half minutes to the leaders.
Tänak’s weekend was therefore already a bit of a write-off before it had even truly got going, but perhaps more worryingly he struggled even when the turbo had been replaced with some “transmission-related” issues and a general feeling that “I can’t drive the way the car likes and the car is not behaving like I like”.
Tänak told DirtFish: “I mean the car is there – the car has always been there. It’s just I think me and the car are a bit of a mis-match.
“It’s probably a bit of a tricky topic at the moment, but we see what the guys can come up with.”
Asked what the tricky topic was, Tänak added: “Like I said, the car is there, and obviously the car is competitive in some other hands.
“But just for me it’s not natural for me and I am not able to deliver with the car like I should. Let’s see.”
Tänak hasn’t hidden the fact that there is work to do to establish the correct level of comfort in the Puma, but his comments on Sunday were by far the most revealing.
He is understood to be pushing M-Sport for an entirely different design philosophy, but so far no tangible progress has been made since the Monte Carlo Rally given the timeframe and tightness of the regulations.
“We haven’t done any development yet so let’s see when some steps start to come in,” said Tänak, “and if they come in then we will find out it is difficult to know.
“I’m not going to hang around just to drive for fifth so yeah for sure we’d like to push.”
M-Sport team principal Richard Millener said the team can be encouraged by Tänak’s pace considering his discomfort, but is aware finding Tänak the feeling that he needs won’t be easy.
“I think he’s certainly struggling in loose-condition stages to feel some confidence in the car,” Millener told DirtFish.
“The guys are working really hard to see what we can do for that over the course of the year, but we can’t change those big fundamental things overnight. So it’s going to be a long and steady process.
“It’s difficult,” he added.
“The car is obviously still competitive because he’s still setting some fantastic times, but our goal is to make it more likened to what he wants to try and help him feel more confident again.
“But if he’s driving around the problems he feels the car has that’s fantastic because we’re still getting good times, and as we said right from the beginning of the season it will be a long year of development.
“He’s guiding us in a direction that we haven’t had up until this point so there’s a lot of work going on in the background and unfortunately we’ve got to try and do that work while the championship’s going on.
“But that’s what motivates us to do better and keep going.”