We have seen this episode once before. A hot upstart young gun taking the fight to his championship winning teammate throughout the title race. A deal that was supposed to start as both drivers receiving number one treatment and now a bit of animosity begins to build as the title race heats up. Think back to 2007 when Lewis Hamilton competed his rookie season against double world champion Fernando Alonso and now look to the WRC and Sebastien Loeb/Ogier and the situations have a number of similarities. The only big difference is this is the supposed swan song for Sebastien Loeb as the best rally driver in the world looks to hang up the driving boots after this season.
The animosity stems from this past weekend at the Acropolis Rally when Sebastien Loeb lost out to young phenom teammate Sebastien Ogier after tactics were put into play that the seven times champion himself has used to take victory some many times before. On the next to last stage of day 2, Ogier intentionally slowed down to fall behind Loeb on day 3. Loeb then was forced to clean the loose gravel on day 3 and would be limited to finishing runner up. Ogier would win his third event of the year and move to just five points adrift of Mikko Hirvonen for second in the championship.
“I was frustrated on Saturday evening. I knew it would be some tactics and I knew it would be no issue for me. Finally, there were no split times in the last stage [from Ogier]. With no splits, the team give him [Ogier] the target time. So I asked: “Why do you give him the benefit and not me?” They knew he wouldn’t get his five seconds – he wanted 20 to stay ahead. At that moment, I was frustrated because I didn’t want to clean the road just in front of him [on Sunday]. -Sebastien LoebWRC.com
While I don’t think there will be a meltdown of McLaren proportions, I do think this is a good sign that Loeb is being more frustrated by Ogier than perhaps any competitor in recent memory. The Ford’s have always been terrible on tarmac and Loeb used the very same tactics to best the Ford’s previously. Now, the protege is using the same tactics that were made famous by his mentor and it is getting to him. No matter how fast or how hard he charges, he just cannot shake Seb 2.0. I don’t see Ogier challenging for the title this year much beyond what he is currently done as he is a bit too inconsistent, but he could play wild card in a points battle between Hirvonen and Loeb. It is just a matter of when Olivier Quesnel and Citroen tell him to back off and play the supporting role to Loeb in his quest for an eighth championship. Regardless, the elements are definitely present and it will be interesting to see in the near future how this teacher/student relationship plays out.