OGIER MOVES TO CITROEN IN 2019, WHAT HAPPENS FOR M-SPORT NOW?
It was announced last week that five-time reigning world champion Sebastian Ogier would be leaving M-Sport at the end of the 2018 World Rally Championship season, to move back to his first team Citroen.
The Frenchman left Citroen in 2012 due to rivalry with fellow Frenchman and nine-time world champion Sebastian Loeb. This move has left quite an indent in the WRC driver market, much like Ricciardo and Raikkonen's moves in Formula One, but the biggest question is what will M-Sport do?
M-Sport have been near the top of the sport since their debut in WRC, but Ogier leaving will have a big hole left to fill. Elfyn Evans contract runs out in 2018 but will likely sign on for another year, but I don't think he is a team-leader. Young Finn Teemu Sunninen is signed on for 2019 as their third driver, and that leaves M-Sport to find a new big driver.
They could aim for Kris Meeke, although it is more likely that a contract with Toyota will materialise. No Toyota driver will likely go to M-Sport, with Latvala and Tänak very likely staying for 2019, with the possibility of Esapeeka Lappi moving to Citroen to complete Citroen's holy grail line-up of Ogier, Lappi and Breen.
There is the possibility of M-Sport poaching a Hyundai driver, either Hayden Paddon or Dani Sordo, although surprisingly there is a rumour that they are going to have the same shared contract in 2019 for Hyundai.
This leaves a driver that has the possibility of winning a title, Mads Østberg. The Norweigan has been driving for Citroen recently, claiming a second place in Finland, and if Lappi does go to Citroen he will not have a seat for 2019.
It is likely that M-Sport will go for Ostberg, but the possibility they could poach Lappi, although I think they'll want someone with more experience to lead a championship winning team.
For Citroen's 'dream-team' line-up of Breen, Ogier and Lappi, this could be finally materialising and the French manufacturer could find themselves back on top of the sport in 2019, although there is one thing that puts it out of frame.
Today it was announced from Citroen team-principal Pierre Budar that Sebastian Loeb could re-join the French team, with the combination of Ogier and Loeb, there would be fourteen WRC titles between them. This would be amazing on a fans perspective, although we all remember 2012 and how this relationship did not work. I would not be surprised if Citroen invoke a similar strategy of Hyundai for a four-driver team, expect Breen and Loeb share the third car, but that all depends on Lappi, the hotshot.
What do you think will happen? Will Loeb and Ogier re-unite, or will Citroen keep their current drivers Østberg and Breen? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.