Since making his MotoGP debut in 2008, Andrea Dovizioso, who replaces Valentino Rossi as the oldest rider on the premier class grid, has raced for four different factories.
The Italian started at Honda, spent 2012 at Tech3 Yamaha, switched to Ducati in 2013, took part in some Aprilia tests in early 2021 and then rode for Petronas Yamaha for the last five rounds of last season.
These SRT performances heralded a full 2022 campaign on the latest factory spec M1 with the RNF Yamaha backup team, which was officially launched in Verona, Italy on Monday night.
“I think MotoGP has already changed a lot in 2020. And that has continued into 2021,” said Dovizioso, who fought Marc Marquez for the title from 2017-19 before slipping to a single race win in his final Ducati season.
The Italian’s former championship rival Marquez was sidelined throughout 2020 through injury, then early and late 2021 as new stars such as Joan Mir, Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia emerged.
“There’s always change in MotoGP because there’s a big evolution of riders, bikes, everything. Every year is like that. So I’m not surprised to be surprised!” added Dovizioso.
“[But] The biggest change came more in 2020. 2020 has been a strange season for many reasons. The Championship, Covid… but I think the main reason was the new rear tire casing, but maybe I’m wrong.”
The number 4 picked up where he left off with Ducati as he tried to understand and adapt to the softer rear tire construction as well as the Yamaha when he returned to MotoGP racing from Misano last season.
Dovizioso took a best finish of 12th in 2019 on ex-Franco Morbidelli’s A-Spec bike, but never fell off the machine once as he worked methodically to build character after eight seasons on a Desmosedici (a handful of them at the time). the M1 understand tests for Aprilia).
“The new rear tire casing that came out in 2020 has mainly changed the way you have to brake – even with the Yamaha you have to use the balance of the two tires differently,” explained Dovizioso.
“I still think I can make better use of that balance. I still don’t feel comfortable braking, I don’t feel like I’m using the full potential of the tires and the bike.
“I’ve improved a lot in the last two races of last season, but I’ve completely changed my braking style compared to Ducati because the Yamaha demands different things. And that also helped me to adapt to the new carcass of 2020.
“The way you have to drive the Yamaha at the moment is not a matter of course for me.”
Dovizioso then finished his debut on the 2022 M1 prototype with the 13th fastest lap time at last November’s Jerez Test, 1.2s from Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia but just over half a second from reigning champion Quartararo’s fastest Yamaha removed.
One of the hardest parts for Dovizioso is deciding which of his old strengths are compatible with the M1’s DNA.
“I definitely need to adapt more because if you have something big in the DNA of the bike, you have to follow the characteristics of the bike. But I think you have to keep a few things from your strengths, so I’m still working on the little details to try to mix those two things.”
Dovizioso also believes that former Ducati teammate Jorge Lorenzo finally succeeded on the Desmosedici.
“Jorge started to get competitive when I think he changed his approach and wasn’t trying to ride like Yamaha but still took something from his riding style,” said Dovi.
“So I think it’s very important to adapt because in today’s MotoGP – tyres, brakes, electronics, chassis – it’s very clear what you have to do on any bike.
“But every driver has a different talent and experience. And everyone has something special. So you have to try to use your way of driving. But you have to understand how much that is [correct] percent is of it.”
Dovizioso will continue that quest when he climbs back onto his WithU-painted M1 for the upcoming Sepang test on February 5-6. The Mandalika test follows shortly thereafter, before the 24-time Grand Prix winner begins his 20th season as full-time world champion in Qatar in early March.
“I mean, I can’t be happy being the oldest on the grid! That’s not positive!” laughed the 35-year-old. “But I’m happy, being here at this age means I’ve worked properly in my career and the people who’ve worked with me have helped me a lot to keep improving. I can be proud of that and thank all the people who have worked with me.”
Team boss Razlan Razali recently told Crash.net that Dovizioso could be a title contender this season.
“I think it would be difficult because the level is so high and we still don’t know – because we have to do the tests – how the situation will be for our bike compared to the other bikes,” said Dovizioso.
“Because the rules are now open again for motor [development], for everything. So anything can happen and no one knows. I don’t want to say yes [but] I’m here to try – and I don’t think I can use this year as a learning year!”
Indeed, like rookie teammate Darryn Binder and the RNF team itself, Dovizioso is currently on a one-year deal with Yamaha.
“Everything is always linked to the results,” Dovizioso said of his future after this season, echoing the words of Valentino Rossi, the driver he now replaces as the oldest on the grid.
“So if the results are going to be very good, that’s not a problem! If the results aren’t that good, that’s how it is.
“I am completely relaxed in this situation. I don’t have a contract for next year, but I don’t want a contract for next year at this moment because I don’t know what I want to do at this moment.
“But of course everything is related to the results because when you are fast you have fun. If you’re not fast, you’re not having fun. Especially at my moment in the career.”