Should Hyundai Keep Esapekka Lappi?

September 25, 2023Joe Moore

Esapekka Lappi joined the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team last season. Should the team keep Lappi for next season?

The Facts

Esapekka Lappi joined Hyundai last offseason to replace Ott Tänak. On paper, this was a bit of a downgrade for Hyundai. As Tänak is a former world rally champion and one of the best drivers in the WRC currently. On the flip side, Lappi has been floating from team to team for the past couple of seasons. Driving for M-Sport, Citroen and Toyota in the process. Lappi was a part-time driver for Toyota last season and put up decent results. Finishing third three times in the season. Lappi moved into a full-time role for Hyundai this season. Making this his first full season since 2020 with M-Sport. Lappi only has one rally win under his belt, that sole win came at the 2017 running of Rally Finland. He is the most recent Finnish driver to win the event. 

Why Hyundai Should Keep Lappi

Esapekka Lappi has been good for Hyundai this season. Finishing on the podium four times so far this season, Lappi has shown he and Thierry Neuville make a good team. Lappi was on pace to win Rally Mexico for his second rally win of his career. However, an accident forced Lappi out of the lead and rally. The biggest thing Hyundai has to consider is how well Neuville and Lappi work together. Lappi has been willing to put Neuville over this season when he’s had to. He’s also a driver who can step up when Neuville makes an issue. 

Who Could Replace Lappi?

If Hyundai chooses to not retain Esapekka Lappi for next season, who could replace him? The likeliest option for Hyundai would be Teemu Suninen or Emil Lindholm. Suninen likely has a spot with Hyundai next season. It’s just unknown if that’s part-time or full-time. Suninen going full-time doesn’t necessarily mean Lappi is out of Hyundai however. As it’s believed Hyundai is getting a fourth i20 Rally1 for next season, or Dani Sordo could retire from driving. Both of which are an option. It’s also believed that if the fourth car does end up happening for Hyundai reigning WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm will get a drive in the car. Ott Tänak has also been rumoured to be involved in talks to rejoin Hyundai. However, that seems unlikely. Lappi is probably Hyundai’s best option for having a second driver that can finish on the podium or top five consistently.