We're peeking into our crystal ball to examine the driver market for next season’s FIA World Rally Championship when the new era World Rally Cars take to the stages for the first time.
Today we turn the spotlight on Hyundai and M-Sport, following yesterday’s analysis of Volkswagen and Citroën, to bring you our thoughts of who might end up where.
Later this week, we’ll throw the prediction game open to wrc.com users with a poll to see what your thoughts are. In the meantime, if you have an opinion then we’d like to hear it via the WRC’s official Facebook page.
Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo are contracted until the end of 2018 so speculation is focused around the future of Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian has endured a difficult relationship with the Korean manufacturer following a slump in form last season. However, he has bounced back to his best with a strong series of results, topped by a win in Italy.
Still, indications point to a move away from the Alzenau squad, with Citroën rumoured to be his likely destination. Conspiracy theorists might point to the fact that while Sordo and Paddon sampled the 2017 i20 for the first time following last month’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland, Neuville was absent.
Kevin Abbring has been testing the 2017 car since April and while he does not have a contract for next year, we reckon there is a strong chance the Dutchman will have a competitive role.
All sorts of possibilities here. Eric Camilli has a contract in his pocket for 2017 but who will partner the Frenchman?
We would put money on Ott Tänak rejoining the squad for a third time. After being dropped for this season, he has shown great pace this year and with the DMACK squad unlikely to exist under new regulations, he would be a logical choice as lead driver in a team he knows well. And Tänak has already tested M-Sport’s fledgling 2017 Fiesta RS….
Elfyn Evans is desperate to return to a full-time programme but commercial pressures are part and parcel of M-Sport life and budget is something the Welshman does not have.
That brings us to Mads Østberg. The Norwegian has funding and although his relationship with the team has been tense at times this year, his financial backing could secure another season.
Don’t discount Lorenzo Bertelli. His private team must be absorbed into a manufacturer squad if he is to continue and budget isn’t an issue, so a third car for the Prada heir could be an option.