What should Moncet do with Neuville and Tänak?

Thierry Neuville leads in Greece, but an Ott Tänak win would help his cause in the drivers' championship


It’s a question, we, he, and those that work with him are all asking tonight. What does Julien Moncet do?

Hyundai’s deputy team director faces a far more luxurious problem than he did at the start of the 2022 World Rally Championship season when Hyundai’s struggles were immense, but it’s a problem nonetheless.

Thierry Neuville leads on merit, 27.9 seconds up the road from Ott Tänak. But it’s Tänak that stands the most realistic chance of a potential upset against Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä in the drivers’ championship, not Neuville.

Those extra seven points for swapping the order the two i20 N Rally1s finish the Acropolis Rally in on Sunday could make all the difference in Tänak’s quest.

Tänak, naturally, would favor such a scenario. But just as predictably, Neuville has no interest – or seemingly intention – to make way for his team-mate.

A dilemma indeed. It certainly complicates what is set to be a historic result for Hyundai, as with Dani Sordo in third it is currently poised for its first-ever 1-2-3 finish in WRC history,

So again we ask the question: what does Moncet do?

“I know everyone has this question and for sure we are wondering as well,” Moncet told DirtFish, “but I think our major target right now, my hot potato if you want to call it that, is to make sure we can secure these three on the podium.

“It has never, ever happened in the history of Hyundai Motorsport and this would be absolutely a great result. Whatever comes next is a side topic.

“You can always see this problem from a different point-of-view and you will always have people who say ‘it will be mad not to swap, others who say ‘for the sport it will be mad to swap,'” Moncet added.

“First of all the rally is not finished, we have seen a lot of dramas today and well, let’s see tomorrow. The triple podium is more important for us right now.”


Whatever Moncet decides to do, he has sympathy from his counterpart over at Toyota.

Jari-Matti Latvala is somebody who understands team orders more than most, faced with these uncomfortable decisions as both a driver and now as a team principal.

Famously, he has always veered away from imposing any instructions of this nature to his drivers unless it is absolutely necessary, so what would he do in Moncet’s position?

“It’s a situation which everybody hates,” Latvala told DirtFish, “but if you think about the championship and you want to keep the championship fight alive, in that sense you should change the order.

“But in our team, we wouldn’t probably do it.


“I mean, that is how you keep the chances alive, but it’s depending on which is more important? Do you want to have a target for the manufacturers’ title or the drivers’ title?”

Jimmy McRae, appearing in DirtFish’s end of day review video from Saturday (which you can watch below) gives the outsider drivers’ view.

“Come the last stage, if I was the team manager, I would be telling them to swap around,” said McRae.

“I’ve been on both sides of the game, where I’ve had to back off and drop a place and it’s very, very hard to take, but on the other hand I’ve been in the other situation where I have gained a place.

“But I think for the money these guys spend on rallying, if there is a possibility at all of Ott taking the championship then I think they’ve got to try and do it.”

Sunday will provide the ultimate answer as to which path Hyundai and Moncet decides to take. Our writers have also waded in on which conclusion they believe Moncet should reach.

The difficult choice simply has to be made

Team orders are ugly. Team orders are controversial. Team orders will always leave at least one party unsatisfied. But team orders haven’t existed throughout all of motorsport for years just to create headlines. They’re there for a purpose, and Hyundai’s currently in a situation where it must surely know what it has to do, it’s just whether it has the nerve to do it or not.


And I absolutely don’t mean that as criticism. I know I wouldn’t have the bravery to tell Neuville that he has to give up a hard-earned win (his first in almost a year) to his team-mate who probably won’t win the drivers’ title anyway.

But that’s why I’m a journalist and not a team principal of a factory rally team. If Moncet seriously wants to advertise his aptitude for the team leader role full-time to Hyundai’s management, he has to be brave. He has to make that call.

Excluding the powerstage, Tänak is currently on course to score 18 more points than Rovanperä. That would reduce Rovanperä’s championship advantage from 72 to 54 with three rounds of the season remaining. But if Tänak wins and scores 25, the deficit is down to 47. Plain and simply, that undeniably improves Tänak’s odds and gives Rovanperä a bigger headache in New Zealand.


And I must admit I’m struggling to understand what ramifications this could have on the manufacturers’ championship too. Orchestrating the finishing order has zero effect on Hyundai’s points haul – it would earn the same 43 points regardless of which driver brings home the 25 and which scores 18. Electing to sit back wouldn’t cost Hyundai a manufacturers’ championship, but potentially a drivers’ championship.

Whether or not that potential position swap will actually make a difference is irrelevant; however making Tänak’s job harder when Hyundai has the opportunity to make it easier is very relevant, and simply doesn’t add up as a solution.

History is littered with examples where a reluctance to implement team orders has potentially cost championships – most famously in 2009 where Mikko Hirvonen lost by one point but could’ve scored two more in Sardinia had Ford ensured that he finished ahead of team-mate and rally winner Latvala.


Of course Hyundai does have something to lose if it does impose team orders. Neuville would be far from happy, and he’s already shown signs of unrest with his feisty comments directed at Tänak on the last round in Belgium.

But Tänak is a driver who has spent large portions of 2022 unhappy, and the rumor mill will continue to speculate about which badge is stitched on his overalls until he emphatically comes out and confirms where he will be driving in 2023. Could opting not to do Tänak a favor here be the final straw that pushes him out the Alzenau door? It’s a speculative suggestion but, at least to me, doesn’t feel entirely fair or unfeasible one either.

Moncet has certainly headed to his hotel room with far easier days ahead of him. But as far as I can see, Hyundai has no silverware to lose by swapping positions but potentially silverware to lose. And when it all comes down to it, it’s silverware that keeps Hyundai in the World Rally Championship. At this level, there can’t always be room for sentiment.

Luke Barry

Forget points – the consequences go beyond 2022

Like Latvala, I’m on the fence about team orders. Someone who begrudgingly accepts their use but isn’t a fan. But let’s consider the risk factors involved.


What happens to Tänak if Neuville checks in two or three minutes late (depending on the final time gap between them)? That points gap between Tänak and Rovanperä, in an ideal scenario for the 2019 world champion where he scores maximum powerstage points and his Toyota rival gets none, would be 42.

It sounds like a lot. But consider this. Tänak on top form is close to unstoppable. We saw that in 2019, when he won five rallies out of seven during his ultimate purple patch. It is not impossible for him to end the season with six wins in a row. After all, Rovanperä managed six wins in seven, and there’s only one rally left in the calendar, New Zealand, where gravel sweeping will be a factor.

Let’s say he does that. Rovanperä would need to average a fourth place finish on every rally to guarantee himself the title – depending on powerstage points for both drivers, of course.


Is Rovanperä continuing his (brief) run of poor form to the point he scores no podiums for the rest of the year realistic? That seems like a bit of a push.

On the other hand, there’s the longer-term consequences.

Motorsport does not care about your feelings. It is a cold place where money and results on the board talk louder than anything else. That’s what they say, anyway.

But these people are missing something. The drivers are not robots. They have feelings. And if you mess with those feelings, they might turn around and mess with you instead.

Here’s the problem I have with the idea of swapping positions: if I’d not won a WRC event in almost 12 months, then was suddenly one stage away from ending that barren streak, I’d tell anyone who’d dare take it away via team order to suck a lemon. To take their team order and shove it where the sun don’t shine. I’d tell them to f*** off.

I would also question whether that team is somewhere I wanted to be, if being a number two driver wasn’t in my contract from the get-go (think Rubens Barrichello at Ferrari in Formula 1, who famously had to bow down to team orders to help Michael Schumacher on several occasions).

If I signed up to be an equal lead driver, I’d expect to be treated like one. That means no team orders that don’t present a material benefit in either the teams’ championship or my own drivers’ championship bids. Which a Neuville-Tänak swap wouldn’t do.

Yes, you could say that Neuville sacrificing his win for Tänak’s slim drivers’ title chances is failing to help the team – but his odds are indeed very improbable. And don’t even tell me Neuville’s doing it to keep himself in the hunt – he’s not in the title race. A 30-point swing towards him in Greece would still leave Rovanperä needing only 24 in the last three rounds to guarantee the title – hardly a tough ask.


Telling Tänak to hold station would probably hack him off. Telling Neuville to cede position would probably hack him off too. And if Hyundai wants to put itself in the best position to rebound in 2023 and fight Toyota on level terms from the get-go, rather than having to play catch-up, it needs both of them in the lineup next year. The solution? Treat them like grown-ups capable of making their own decisions instead – and trust them to deliver on the jobs they’ve been given. That even applies to Dani Sordo in this case.

Leave Tänak to do what he wants – if he’s going to risk pushing to catch Neuville, so be it. And if Neuville wants to defend his lead, so be it. They’ve both been doing this for a long time. They know fine and well that they can’t throw away a 1-2.

And even if one of them does bin it, that’s what Sordo is there for. Yes, he’s under pressure from Elfyn Evans behind – but again, it’s about trusting the drivers to deliver. He’s there to come in and score podiums, to be the insurance in case one of the other i20s end up breaking down or in a hedge. And he’s scored four podiums in a row. Have some trust that he’ll make it five.

At most, that trio needs only a reminder that their car needs to be at the final time control in one piece – and that the order they arrive in is up to them to sort out among themselves.

A team without trust is a team that’s destined to fall apart in acrimony. Leave them alone to get on with the task at hand.

Alasdair Lindsay