Why we’re seeing the rarely seen side to Ogier in 2022

The eight-time WRC champion looked after - and held onto - number one for years, but is now focused on the team game


Part-time World Rally Championship seasons are like puffer jackets or oversized T-shirts – they’re back in fashion.

Gone are the days where WRC teams employ specific drivers for particular surfaces like the swaps in and out of Peugeot in the early 2000s between Harri Rovanperä (gravel) and Gilles Panizzi (asphalt) for example but dipping a toe in the WRC pond and committing just when they want to has become very desirable to drivers.

Dani Sordo has become the master of it. Sébastien Loeb has made more comebacks than Take That and now Sébastien Ogier is at it too.

The concept of a partial season is perhaps at odds at what made Ogier so great though. Ogier was the undisputed master at winning a championship – you always sensed that individual rally wins (unless they were in Monte Carlo) didn’t mean too much to him. Instead, it was the 25 points that came with it that made him happiest.


In a season where the championship hasn’t been an objective, the points surely can’t have still mattered either?

Well, not quite. Drivers’ championship points, maybe not. But in his new role Ogier has been more than aware of the championship job he still has to do – help Toyota secure the manufacturers’ championship. And his contribution towards that was invaluable in New Zealand.

After three months out of the car and spending a summer pretty much exclusively at home, Ogier was in a relaxed mood in the build-up to last week’s rally. He had become one of us – not driving a car but instead turning to DirtFish to keep up with what was going on in the WRC.

“Obviously family time, that was the focus, but I was online, watching your content,” he revealed, “especially on the last event [Acropolis] now for sure because I knew I was coming back so I said, ‘maybe I need to be aware what’s happening and what’s going on.'”


What did he make of the team orders situation between Hyundai team-mates Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak? Was he surprised Hyundai didn’t switch them around?

“A little bit, but it’s always a tricky situation. I have been involved myself in enough controversy, so I don’t want to create anymore now! It’s a tricky one for sure.

“They are far away but I think there was an article from David that said this mental aspect of being under 50 or over, it’s true that it’s a little mental influence I believe.

“But realistically I think Kalle has it all in hand and he can already make it maybe even this weekend.”


Prophetic words from the chilled-out, outgoing champion. But within all of that there was a very important point that defined what New Zealand was all about for him.

“For the team it’s not over for the manufacturers’ championship and we’re definitely here to try to help them on that side, but on a personal side to enjoy it as well.”

It’s rare for any driver to put the team’s objective above their own – unless they’ve already won the drivers’ title – particularly someone as driven by success as Ogier. But that’s exactly what Ogier did last week: he put the team first.

It might’ve been a touch different had he led the rally overnight – not losing those 13.3 seconds on Friday’s final stage without the benefit of his rear wing which had lost a battle with a bush on the previous test.


Rovanperä was supremely fast on Saturday as the rain intensified so could’ve steamrolled past Ogier (as he did) regardless, but the psychological difference in starting a day in first rather than third is obvious.

It would be wrong to say Ogier rolled over and gave up the fight, but there was nothing to gain by taking what he called “crazy risks” to match his team-mate’s speed. Rovanperä needed those 25 points, Ogier didn’t, but the team still scored 43 no matter which order they were in.

So, second place suited Ogier just fine.

“I think I can be happy with my weekend honestly, and I am personally. I will let you put your judgement on it, but from my side it’s been a nice comeback after three months,” Ogier surmised.


“It’s been a challenging rally with fast roads, I haven’t competed in Estonia, Finland which would have been perfect preparation for here, and it’s been muddy like you said, tricky conditions so no I think it’s nice.”

And again, here’s the key: “Also at the same time Kalle was flying like he has been doing many times this season and especially in these tricky conditions, so very quickly I realized that it’s not the day where I need to take crazy risks.

“I’m here to be a good team player and secure this manufacturers’ championship – now we are getting very close to it. Especially when Elfyn retired at this moment my mindset changed a little bit, but at the same time no excuses: Kalle was untouchable in these conditions so I was not really planning to take all these risks anyway to catch him.”

Have we ever seen this side to Ogier before? He says we have.


“Don’t get me wrong I still like to win and I’m still the same person, but I think I’ve been, since a long time, already a team player,” he replied when DirtFish pointed out to him that he was showing a new side to himself.

“Of course, we are all a bit egoist in this sport and think a lot about ourselves, but I always have been I think also a good team player and in this moment it was really the occasion to show it.

“I cannot say I will celebrate like crazy a second place, that will never be the case, but I think still I can take a lot of satisfaction from this weekend.”

The perception of Ogier is that he has never put his team first – the fallout at Citroën when paired with Loeb in 2011 is the ultimate argument against him. And when he was busy dominating the world with Volkswagen, everything (and everybody) was playing to his tune in a way we see with Max Verstappen at Red Bull in Formula 1 nowadays.


But that doesn’t mean Ogier has never cared about his team’s objectives, it’s just that we haven’t seen it so publicly before. He’s matured as a driver and as a person over the years and isn’t living with the same chip on his shoulder as when the FIA decided to alter the road order rules in a very deliberate act to slow him down.

Ogier’s a more popular driver now than he ever has been – the years as an underdog at M-Sport undoubtedly helped in that regard – as he’s had less and less to prove to anyone, or even himself.

As an interim driver in the WRC, he cannot be world drivers’ champion again. And he seems very unlikely to reconsider his strategy to just appear sporadically any time soon.

Priorities, therefore, have changed. Soundbites we get from drivers in the media are generally about what matters most to them, which for a driver fighting for a drivers’ championship is the drivers’ championship. The manufacturers’ matters, but it’s second in their world.

Now the manufacturers’ championship is the only championship that Ogier can influence, and Ogier absolutely adores winning championships.

So really, it’s no surprise at all to see Ogier so committed to the team’s cause, even if it’s a slightly new color on him in a public sense. Nothing has changed, he’s just shooting at the other goal now.