Abiteboul bringing F1 thinking to Hyundai WRC structure in Sweden
The former Renault F1 boss is undertaking only his second WRC event as team principal after leading the team at Monte Carlo in January, but the Frenchman has already identified areas for improvement.
One of Abiteboul’s key early objectives is to improve the way the team communicates, engages with its drivers and its decision making process. Having spent the majority of his career working in F1 at Caterham and Renault, Abiteboul believes an F1-style approach in this area will benefit the WRC team.
While Abiteboul says the changes this weekend are not a “revolution”, his longer term ambition for the team is to focus more on engineering, while assessing Hyundai’s overall motorsport future.
“As always working with two timelines in parallel, there is short term and that is immediately, so starting here this weekend we are going to make a few changes here and there in the way we run events,” Abiteboul told Autosport.
“It is not a revolution because this team doesn’t not need revolution, and frankly I can say that there is no way I can bring a useful revolution due to my experience.
“There are small changes here and there and the way that do things and the way we engage and communicate and the structure of the decision making process.
“That is where Formula 1 is impressive with its chain of command and the amount of information that we have to digest in a very little amount of time. I think here it is a little bit different but there are some things we can transfer from F1 to this world so that is what I’m going to do this weekend.
“It is going to be an interactive process and we will take it from there.
Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1
Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport
“It may mean the drivers have bit more engineering duties than media duties. In rallying there are long days and you get very little interaction with the drivers, and we see that we have been struggling with set ups, and still ending the rally not totally convinced what we have done.
“In my opinion we need to be stronger from an engineering perspective. That is going to be the centre of show. I want to have a bit more of a systematic way of how we do things.
“Then there is the long term where we have to think about the future of Hyundai Motorsport and the customer racing and we have had a number of discussions about what we want to do, but it is too early to talk about these things.”
In addition to these changes, Hyundai will also have a new team manager leading the way in Sweden, with former Toksport team chief Tolga Ozakinci taking the helm.
Ozakinci’s appointment, taking over from the departing Pablo Marcos, was a planned move before Abiteboul was installed as team principal. Ozakinci was an observer at Monte Carlo but will be put in command this weekend, although Marcos is on site to oversee the transition.
Moncet to return to powertrain role
Abiteboul has also confirmed that Julien Moncet, who led the team last year as its de-facto team principal under the deputy team director moniker, will return to heading up the powertrain division.
“The engine and powertrain in general was an advantage of this team last year and it looks like it is not anymore,” said Abiteboul.
“But I would like to know that a bit better as we need to build a development strategy for the year and to use our [homologation] jokers and that something which has not been done yet.
Julien Moncet, Deputy Team Director & Powertrain Manager, Hyundai World Rally Team
Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport
“To spend the joker, we need to understand where we are struggling and that is the information I’m lacking right now.
“Julien said we had a competitive advantage in the engine before and he was key to that, so clearly hats off to him for doing that. It is motorsport and people are catching up so we need to stay on top of these things.
“Julien needs to keep on leading the group on the engine side plus a few more things we are talking about.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, Abiteboul believes his team has a strong car set-up direction, helped by fielding Esapekka Lappi in a national rally in Finland last weekend.
“I think it [the rally] was very useful because as we discussed last time in Monte Carlo we are gaining confidence and getting familiar with the team,” he added.
“Anything we can do to build that confidence with the drivers is massive from a technology and a car perspective. We have been able to play with set ups and it [the car] has been reacting, so I think overall we have got a good direction to start the event with.”