After the tests in Qatar, Ducati certainly cannot complain: track record, top speed record, race pace among the best, the 2021-spec Desmosedici is right up there and their riders too. For Borgo Panigale this season is one of revolution, not technical but human. Out with Dovizioso and Petrucci, who have marked the recent past, in with Miller and Bagnaia, with Zarco promoted to Pramac and three rookies (Bastianini, Marini and Martin in strict alphabetical order) for the future. There is a lot of ‘steak on the barbie’, so to speak, and the recipe seems to work, as Paolo Ciabatti, sporting director of the team in red, freely admits.
“We are satisfied with how these tests went because they were important with a lot of new changes, starting with Jack and Pecco’s debut in the factory team, then again Johann’s arrival in Pramac and the first time for the three rookies – he said – There were a lot of expectations and even some unknown factors, so now I can say that we are satisfied with how it went for all our riders. It is clear that Qatar is a friendly track for Ducati, we won there in 2018 and 2019 with Dovizioso, but we are happy with all the positives in this test, including the unofficial track record that Jack set and Johann’s top speed. I would say that we are happy, but we remain with our feet firmly on the ground because we will have to try and repeat these performances in the upcoming circuits, starting from Portimao and Jerez. If a good beginning soils well, then it was”.
What is the atmosphere like in the factory team?
“Miller and Bagnaia are two young riders, even though Jack is already in his seventh season in MotoGP. Their inclusion in the team has been extremely positive, without any problems. Their track and electronics engineers also came with both riders, so they kept their benchmarks and this helped make the transition even smoother. The whole team is all fired up and having two young riders with a lot of enthusiasm and a desire to do well I think has brought a breath of fresh air, positivity and optimism that we really needed ”.
“Dovizioso made an important contribution to Ducati but we won’t be lacking anything with Miller and Bagnaia”
So was it the right time to make this change?
“My answer can only be yes. While it wasn’t an easy decision, we made it because we believed it was time to make a major change. Without rejecting anything of what we did with Andrea and Danilo, for a variety of reasons, a radical change was necessary and I believe that our policy of inserting fresh energy with young riders in all the teams is right. It was time to think about the future with some riders who still have prospects of improvement”.
But aren’t you missing not having an experienced rider like Dovizioso, who knew the Ducati like the back of his hand, in the garage?
“Obviously Andrea was very important for Ducati, he won 14 races with us, after Casey Stoner he is the most successful rider with our bike. From this point of view he made a very important contribution, but it is also true that Miller is in his fourth season on the Ducati and knows the working method very well, like Pecco, in his third season with us. I believe that there will be no shortcomings or contraindications compared to the past ”.
“The three rookies have the right approach, we know that on other tracks they will struggle more”
How did you see the three rookies, Bastianini, Marini and Martin, at their first test?
“All very good. They didn’t have the chance to get on a MotoGP bike until Qatar, which is quite unusual because normally there would have been tests in Valencia, Jerez and Sepang which were canceled and everything was compacted into six days. All three did really well, they are riders with different characteristics, Luca, due to his slender physique, needed more time to find an ergonomics suitable for his height and to be comfortable on the bike, Enea and Jorge, being smaller, had fewer problems . I spoke to their engineers, Romagnoli, Giribuola and Ferraccioli, and they are very satisfied with their approach, the desire to learn the speed with which they store information and the interest they show in studying the data. It’s a great start, but we already know that when we get to different tracks it will be more difficult for them to sort out the bike, the work could be more difficult. Above all, we expect continuous growth from them”.
Pirro stated in an interview with us that in recent years the results were closely linked to Dovizioso, while now Ducati can focus on more riders. Do you agree with him?
“I am convinced that Miller, Bagnaia and Zarco have the possibility to do very well, they have shown in the tests that they are very comfortable on the 2021 Desmosedici. I think we will be able to count on three ‘strikers’ to score good results. Jack continues to be the playful and funny guy that we know and he brings joy to the garage, but he has taken the responsibility of being a factory rider very seriously and is very motivated. Pecco has a different character, he is more reflective but he has acquired a lot of self-confidence and knows he has what it takes to do well. For Johann, the fact of moving to the Pramac team with a bike identical to that of the two factory riders gave him further motivation, he is one of the strongest riders in MotoGP, as he showed in Yamaha, and he is mature”.
If things take a turn for the worse, we saw that Davide Tardozzi is always ready to put on his leathers again…
“He is part of this spirit that is in the garage. We started joking and they convinced him to put on the suit, this shows that there is a desire to do well but also to enjoy this year together”.
Did you have any particular surprises these days?
“I wouldn’t say so, I was hoping there was great enthusiasm for both the riders and their technicians and I felt this desire to do well. For sure there will be some difficult moments, because there is never any season in which everything goes smoothly, but the fact that everyone is very motivated is a positive factor, which however did not surprise me. “
“Marc Marquez won’t want to anticipate his return at all costs, but I expect to see him in Qatar”
Do you think Marc Marquez will be there for the first race?
“In any case, I expect to see him in Qatar, I think that even if he doesn’t race, he would come anyway. Let’s not forget that there will be two races, so he could decide to enter the first or second, only he knows that. It is obvious that MotoGP is missing Marquez because he has been the benchmark rider from 2013 onwards and I think he will only want to return if he is sure he is at 100%, I imagine that for him it has been a long, painful, tiring journey, which hath created a lot of worries for him. I don’t think he wants to anticipate his return at all costs, if he can give his best he will race, but only he knows this ”.