The new Hyundai rally team boss, Cyril Abiteboul, also commented on the sidelines of the WRC opener in Monte Carlo about a possible Formula 1 entry for the Koreans. The premier class is therefore not an issue for the group. But that could change.
The story sounded logical. When Hyundai signed former Renault F1 team boss Cyril Abiteboul earlier this year, the Koreans appeared to be taking the first step towards the premier class. Rumors had recently persisted in the paddock that the carmaker from Seoul was flirting with an F1 entry.
These rumors were probably not entirely unfounded either. After all, F1 boss Stefano Domenicali personally made his way to South Korea in autumn to speak to the group bosses. Even then, it was clear that it would be too early to get started with the introduction of the new engine regulations in 2026. Hyundai would first have to set up the necessary infrastructure.
Rally is supposed to boost business
So it was no wonder that Abiteboul expressed reservations about his employer's Formula 1 plans during his first public appearance in a new role at the Monte Carlo Rally. The rally program is currently in the foreground, which also fits better with the car manufacturer's product range, explained the Frenchman.
Hyundai currently has mainly cheap small cars in its portfolio, which are also sold as sports versions. The World Rally Championship, where the Koreans compete with the Rally1 version of the i20 N, is currently the ideal platform. "There are currently no other plans," the Frenchman denied a possible entry into alternative racing series.
But that doesn't have to mean that the Formula 1 plans stay in the drawer forever. "Hyundai has made a great development globally. And the motorsport program is intended to boost business. Together with the rest of the company, I have to understand what the business needs and how we can continue to support it," said Abiteboul.
F1 plans still in the drawer
The 45-year-old admitted that Formula 1 was also being considered behind the scenes. But there were no serious discussions or plans to get started. "Rally is currently the best platform to promote small cars. We now have to see how this segment develops and how the rally remains relevant. We are working on this together with the FIA and the promoters."
Hyundai's commitment to the WRC is currently being managed from the motorsport headquarters in Alzenau, Hesse. For a possible Formula 1 entry, the infrastructure there would have to be significantly expanded. Abiteboul does not want to give the premier class a definitive rejection: "In the future we will have to see whether we want to start a different or an additional program. But that is not a priority for us at the moment. The only priority is to win in the World Rally Championship. "