Andrea Dovizioso insists he doesn’t regret rejecting an offer to join Aprilia for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship despite its race-winning form relative to his struggling return to the series on the RNF Racing Yamaha.
Now the most experienced rider on the MotoGP grid following the retirement of Valentino Rossi, Dovizioso is embarking on his first full season back in the premier class after taking a sabbatical in the wake of his exit from Ducati at the conclusion of the 2020 season.
Eventually returning for the lattermost rounds of the 2021 season with Petronas SRT Yamaha – ahead of a full season deal under its new RNF Racing banner – it was not before a concerted effort by Aprilia Racing to bring him on board last year.
However, despite completing a handful of test outings on the RS-GP, Dovizioso’s hesitance over joining Aprilia – reportedly over its questionable competitiveness – allowed the Italian firm to make a swoop for Maverick Vinales in after his premature split with Yamaha.
Now, four rounds into the season, Aprilia is a race winner following Aleix Espargaro’s victory in Argentina, while Dovizioso has picked up just three points on the Yamaha M1.
Despite this, Dovizioso doesn’t believe he would have necessarily been on Espargaro’s pace had he joined Aprilia, though he says he was pleased to see the manufacturer come good after several difficult years.
“No, I don’t regret it – but not because I don’t want to work with Aprilia,” he told reporters after the Grand Prix of The Americas, in which he finished 15th. “I’m actually very happy with Aprilia’s results.
“Because in the short time that I got to know them a bit and tested them for them, the atmosphere was really relaxed and productive. I’m happy for them and I also want to congratulate Aleix because in the end he brought the bike to the finish line.
“There are several examples that show that it takes a mix of things to get results. If you were to say, for example, that Maverick is not strong, that would be nonsense. He’s a top driver, even if he’s slower than Aleix.
“This happens because Aleix has been on the bike for x years and has been through all the stages of development, from the moment when they were not yet competitive to the moment when they were.”
Andrea Dovizioso facing uncertain MotoGP future?
It has been a humbling return to MotoGP action for Dovizioso, who has struggled to find his feet on the RNF Yamaha.
Considered something of a miracle worker after getting to grips with and make a success of riding the Ducati package – an enigma of a machine for the likes of Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow, Jorge Lorenzo and Marco Melandri – it appears adapting back the M1 is proving a head scratcher.
Ironically, the M1 is regarded as one of the more approachable MotoGP bikes to ride but Dovizioso says he is spending a lot of time and energy in practice just to find a workable setting, and even then it isn’t making much of a dent in races.
While he isn’t alone with countryman Franco Morbidelli also having a troubled time cracking the points so far this season, Dovizioso’s pace hasn’t been markedly stronger than MotoGP novice Darryn Binder on the year-old version.
It all raises the question of whether Dovizioso has a future in MotoGP far beyond 2022. While Binder came in as the unproven wild-card in the line-up, his performances will vindicate Razlan Razali’s original ‘MO’ with Petronas SRT to foster young talents for the future and – as it stands – has a stronger chance of being retained for 2023.
As for whether Dovizioso would be having better fortune on the Aprilia, it’s perhaps reasonable to assume he would have been just on the grounds of its better funded factory-backed set-up… shoulda, woulda, coulda but while Dovi might be believed that he’s not regretting turning Aprilia down, he might be regretting signing up with Yamaha instead.