Tänak holds key to 2020 driver moves
Drivers await the Estonian decision
April. That’s when Ott Tänak started talking about getting his future signed, sealed and sorted. He wanted it done early. Six months down the road and we’re still waiting. And so is the Estonian.
First he was going back to M-Sport Ford. Malcolm Wilson had a five-year deal waiting for him. Then he was staying at Toyota Gazoo Racing. Then he wasn’t. Then he was off to Hyundai Motorsport. No, no, back to Toyota. He’s definitely staying there.
And now it’s reckoned he’s back around the table with Hyundai and might be wearing blue next season after all. Really? No idea.
This behind-the-scenes soap opera has been going on for longer than Sébastien Ogier’s post-Volkswagen move which took him to M-Sport. There was a second chapter 12 months later, when he again flirted with other teams, before staying where he was.
But those storylines have got nothing on the twists and turns apparently involved in Tänak’s discussions.
That the Toyota star holds all the cards is beyond doubt. Everybody wants him (except Citroën as the French firm has Ogier and Esapekka Lappi tied down for next season) and once we know where he’s going, then the rest of the seats will be sorted.
Craig Breen, Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen all have to be patient while the championship leader makes up his mind.
The reason such an apparently languorous driver market is so rare these days is that we’ve previously had champions in settled positions.
Prior to his move to M-Sport, Ogier remained at Volkswagen from 2012 until the end of 2016. Before that, Sébastien Loeb was on the Citroën payroll from 2001 through to his move away from full-time WRC. For years, there really weren’t any big driver move stories.
Meeke’s Toyota deal last season raised eyebrows, but these were nothing like the monster stories of Colin McRae moving from Subaru to Ford at the end of 1998. The Scot not in a Subaru… that one took a while to sink in.
And then there was Carlos Sainz and his shift from Ford to Toyota to Lancia to Subaru to Ford to Toyota to Ford to Citroen. Have we missed any? And each of those was a brilliantly masterminded move from the Spaniard (apart from the third spell at Ford, brought about following Toyota’s ban in 1996).
So, tough to call as this year’s market might be, it’s got nothing on the old days. Yet…….
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