Alvaro Bautista was one of the protagonists of a perfect Sunday for Ducati, capable in just one day of triumphing in MotoGP with Bastianini, in MotoAmerica with Petrucci and in SBK with the Spaniard back on the Panigale after a 2019 season full of joy and disappointment. Alvaro was a guest of our Bar Sport dedicated to SBK and agreed to answer many questions about the present, about his return to victory at Aragon and about the challenge represented by two seasons in Honda.
“Winning was great – Bautista began by talking about Aragon – especially after two difficult years in which I worked hard without getting the results everyone hoped to achieve when I signed two years ago. The feeling was great. From the first day I got back on the Panigale V4, I found my bike. I’m happy more than for the win, for how I can ride this bike. Very happy to be back in this team, which is a wonderful family”.
But is it true that you didn’t give everything in Race 1?
“The first race I decided not to overdo it. It may not seem true, but on Saturday my main focus was to see the checked flag. I administered the race, fighting with Toprak and Rea is not easy. I enjoyed it, there were many overtakes. I also tried to pass Rea, not too soon so as not to help him. At that point, however, he was riding no better than me, but more effectively to pass me. However, it was important to start the championship with a good base, then on Sunday I won and that’s okay. There I really gave everything”.
Did you miss training with the stock Panigale V4?
“I have the new Panigale V4, but unfortunately I haven’t used it yet. Here it is not possible at certain times of the year. I missed being able to train with it, because for us riders this training is very important. Unfortunately , you can’t do it all the time, so this year I did a lot of motocross to make up for it.”
The question actually referred to the past two years…
At this point Bautista takes a deep breath, and then admits with a smile: “Yes!”
Bautista: “Have I missed the Panigale to train in the last few years? Yes!”
They tell us from Ducati that you have a passion for gnocchi.
“These are the Ducati bosses! I love 4 cheese gnocchi, my favorite dish. I don’t eat it at home, but only when a good Italian cook cooks it for me. In the paddock I am famous for this! The bike was an excuse, but I went back to Ducati for the gnocchi ”.
How different is this Panigale from the one you had in 2019?
“I have always said that the bike in terms of performance is at a high level as it was three years ago. It has improved because it is more balanced, you stay within the limit more easily. In 2019 we were either very fast, or we suffered a lot. Now you feel the bike better, the electronics have made great steps forward, they give you more confidence. Now I understand better where the limits are, so I feel safer now. Then in 2019 I was also in my first year of SBK, in my first year with Pirelli. Now I know how to manage everything a little better”
Can you explain instead what went wrong in the two Honda seasons?
“In this championship it is increasingly difficult to make big changes to the bikes. They are modified series bikes, in Honda I asked for some things, but they were not feasible things in this championship. From Japan they tried to help me as much as they could but remaining within the regulations. Honda did its utmost. Maybe they started with this bike further back than they expected, they thought the bike was born better, instead they needed to make deeper changes to the bike. The guys on the team were also great, but they were inexperienced. The electronics engineers were not familiar with it, they had to do everything from scratch and it was difficult. In MotoGP, if a frame doesn’t work, you can make a new one. In SBK, if a frame doesn’t work, you can’t do anything about it. You can do small things, but not too much. I tried to the end”.
When you were in trouble, did you ever think about throwing in the towel?
“No, the idea of retirement was never in my thoughts. I don’t feel ready, I’m thirty-seven but I feel physically and mentally very strong and well trained, I think I can still give a lot. I certainly never thought about retirement, just as I don’t think about it now. I had this chance to return to Ducati and I think it was the best chance for me. Now I want to have fun and not think about developing a bike from scratch”.
Bautista: “Never thought about retiring, I feel strong and with a lot of experience”
How was the first call from Ducati to return?
“I have always had a very good relationship with Foti, Cecconi and Casolari, who are the three people who manage the Ducati team in SBK. I always joked with them, they said to me that after the contract with Honda was finished, I could come back with them. Then at the beginning of 2021 I spoke to Serafino and Stefano seriously, and they gave me this chance. We both wanted it. We started talking and it didn’t take long for us to reach an agreement”.
What do you think about the Toprak of today?
“Each rider has his own characteristics and strengths. Toprak is a rider who defends himself well in close combat, for me he is the most aggressive of the whole grid. Rea is too, but Toprak definitely more. In 2019 I did some crashes with him, he knocked me down twice. But then I didn’t have a chance to fight him anymore. Now I have, but I think Aragon is not the best track for Toprak. Of course, if I had to fight him in a close quarter battle on the last lap, I think I’d lose because I’m small and light. If I want to win, I mustn’t arrive at the last lap with him, because I would lose. This is why I try to make my own strategy; he is an aggressive rider and difficult to pass ”.
Bautista: “In a close quarter battle with Toprak, I would lose”
Petrucci made a great debut in MotoAmerica, are you waiting for him in SBK in 2023?
“We all know Danilo; he is a very strong rider. He has won in MotoGP, in Dakar and in MotoAmerica. He is talented and fast and I think that if he wins in MotoAmerica, which won’t be easy, I think he can come back. This winter we rode together, but he was using Dunlops. If there is the possibility of him racing in SBK in the Ducati family, I think he will find a team with the same material as ours. I don’t think there would be any problems, it would be nice and the level would rise a lot. This championship is growing, since I arrived with the Panigale V4 I think it has grown. Many riders who were not interested before, see it as a real option”.
Between Razgatlioglu and Rea, who do you fear most for the world championship?
“I couldn’t choose between Toprak and Rea. They both want to win, and I also want to make up for it because in 2019 we lost it, me and the team. I have to improve and work on myself so as not to make the mistakes I made in the past”.
Would you like to test the Ducati MotoGP bike? At Phillip Island you were strong as an official rider…
“I’d like to try the Ducati MotoGP bike and experience those sensations again. Phillip Island was a good race, I had already signed up for SBK, there was no more room for me in MotoGP. But in that race, I showed that maybe I deserved a few more seasons with that bike. However, I have good memories of that race”.