Maybe we got caught in the emotion. Maybe we misread things. Maybe we didn’t. Either way, Sébastien Ogier has left the door ajar. He could be back in the World Rally Championship. Maybe.
As you can imagine the debriefing after Monza Rally has gone on for much of the last fortnight and the considered opinion is that Ogier could be back full-time in the future. Talk to like-minded people, get carried away a little bit and you can convince yourself it’s just a matter of time.
By his own admission, the eight-time champion is surely young enough to be back in rallying’s bigtime at any point in the next four or five years.
He’s 38 later this month. His countryman Sébastien Loeb will be knocking on the door of 48 once he’s completed his fourth comeback as we expected him to with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team in Monte Carlo.
The issue for Ogier right now is that he’s burned out. He tired of the World Rally Championship to the point that he now wishes he wasn’t doing January’s Monte Carlo Rally. That’s not the way he works.
“Sometimes you lose a little bit of the excitement to go [to WRC rounds] and it cannot be like this,” he told DirtFish.
“It was a dream of mine to do that [WRC] and still I enjoy so much. But when you reach this point and you realize you are thinking too much about the negative when you go to a race, compared to all this joy that it brings to you… that’s maybe the time that you need to reset a little bit.
“To take at least a break. Maybe that comes to a complete end, maybe it will miss me [and] I come back a little bit more, I don’t know.
“I’m still not that old for rally.”
Those lines, along with this one to his co-driver Julien Ingrassia: “One thing is sure, I told him that I’m going to miss him and it’s been an amazing journey. And that he has to leave his phone open, because you never know [when] I might have to call him at some point.”
Those are the lines which offer an insight into where Ogier’s mind is at. He loves this sport, but naturally he loves his family more and right now family has to come first. That’s never going to change, but drivers – and human beings – like Ogier aren’t made to sit around for the next 50 years.
We’ve seen this time and again down the years, with the likes of Tommi Mäkinen, Colin McRae and, of course, Loeb. They retire, relax briefly and then feel unfulfilled professionally and competitively. That’s when Dakar or running your own team comes calling. Sometimes both.
Ogier has already made plain his intention to head from the stage to circuit in an effort to land a Le Mans seat and that’s something to surely hold his focus for the time being. But rallying is where he’s spent the last decade and a half. It’s where his heart is.
And, crucially, it’s where his world-conquering skillset is. He’ll keep himself sharp with three or four outings next season, but don’t forget who he works for.
He’s a Toyota driver and a Toyota driver with massive relevance, experience and understanding of what it takes to make a rally car go quickly down a stretch of road. Those roads won’t change much in the next few years and his experience will remain relevant until he’s well into his 40s.
Do we see him dipping in and out in the way Loeb has? Probably not. Back to his own words: “Maybe it’s the fact that I’m always one guy of the extreme. When I do something, I do something 100%. Or I don’t do it.”
So there you have it: post-2022, Ogier will definitely be back in the World Rally Championship. Or he definitely won’t be.
Black, white, but no room for any hint of grey.