Manuel Pecino    Photos Courtesy: Rafa Marrodán / 2snap / JM Salido

Sitting down with a rider who isn’t doing well is always complicated. As one would imagine, his mood isn’t great and the issues to inquire about should precisely address why. That is to say, your mission as a journalist is to basically stick your finger in the wound to find out why this frustrating stage is occurring. Especially when it comes to a rider who fell from the top to the bottom. And if he was also fired from his team halfway through the championship, the task is even bigger. Add to that the rider in question is a guy with a strong and direct character like Andrea Iannone, having a tete a tete becomes a challenge.

Personally, Andrea is a rider who has always caught my attention for his explosiveness on the track. I have a friend who always reminds me that in his day, he was the scourge of Marc Márquez in Moto2 and the only rider who could stand up to the aggressiveness of the Spanish rider. He was also the first Ducati winner of the Dall’Igna era. Fast and brave all the way.

One detail caught my eye: at this stage of the championship, Andrea is the only MotoGP rider, the only one, who has never gone through Q1.

Before sitting down with Iannone, I reviewed his performance this season. One detail caught my eye: at this stage of the championship, Andrea is the only MotoGP rider, the only one, who has never gone through Q1.

Another important fact of his 2018 season is the clear difference between his results at the beginning of the year and those of the second half. It was exactly the reason for this difference I inquired about when we started our conversation that would last more than 20 minutes.

– I don’t know. After Barcelona we suffered, we suffered a lot in the race

But did the bike changed after Barcelona? Or is it that the other bikes improved and yours hasn’t?
– … I don’t know. In my opinion, the others always improve, we try to improve too but … I don’t know, I don’t know how much we have improved.

I shouldn’t be leaving Suzuki! In my opinion many things would be different … The fact I’m leaving Suzuki at the end of the season makes everything more complicated.

But as a rider, I imagine you’re wondering what happened, what’s the cause of the drop of results and the performance difference.
– No, there’s no slump. In my opinion the other factories are working hard. They started from a higher level than us … We are weak on some points, in some circumstances and probably in the race is where you see it more.

Do the tests that they did in Barcelona after the GP have anything to do with the change in results? Can you read that in those tests the others took a step forward and you were stagnant?
– No, there is no relationship.

I guess you know you’re the only MotoGP rider who has not gone through Q1 this season. Márquez, Rossi, Lorenzo, Dovizioso … all have at some point been seen in Q1. I understand that this means that the speed is there.
– I’ve always been sure that I’m a fast rider. I consider myself a very fast rider, even though I can’t squeeze 100% of the potential in this current a situation.

I share with you your opinion about your ability to go fast … It started far back; we saw it in your times in Moto2. But now, what is lacking?
– The way I see it, I’m missing … I need to not leave Suzuki! In my opinion many things would be different. The fact I’m leaving Suzuki at the end of the season makes everything more complicated. I think this always hurts.

We do not have the speed to stay with the others until the end. Ducati and Honda start the race at a pace that we are also capable of doing, but from then on we get worse while the others go better.

Does this situation make you angry?
– No, no, no, no, no. It makes me feel sad, yes. But in the end I think it’s better to be like this [than angry].

I spoke with some of your team members and they commented to me that you could improve your race strategy, that the fact you’re a pure speedman limits you, that you should manage your manner of racing.
– Yes, but you can do this when you are fast like the others. I mean, that you don’t have to go 100% at all times to be there. I think we don’t have the speed like the others to stay with them until the end. The others start the race—look at what happened in Brno—at a pace that we are also capable of doing. But from there both Alex and I go worse while the others go better … At the beginning the others go like us, then they improve and we slow down. That is, they make half a quiet race, going slowly for them. That same half we do at full throttle Because if you’re there, sixth or seventh, in the group in front, what do you do? Tell yourself “wait, go half a second slower to reserve something for the end of the race”? It makes no sense! … And if you notice, it’s always like that … They, Ducati and Honda, with six or seven final laps decided to change the pace, go faster, and that’s when they put those five or six seconds between us. From five laps from the end to the end we were massacred … What strategy can you do with this situation?! Me-from the first lap to the last I always go slower … But it’s the same with Alex too. The others made their fastest lap in Brno on the last lap; in Austria it was the same. And what can I do?

They have more of everything, they have more advantages. They work better with the tires, they work better with the electronics. Strategy, strategy … A rider today, in MotoGP, what can he do?! Brake the best you can, accelerate as best you can, ride the best you know how… The strategy is created in the box; the strategy is the electronics that you have on the bike that manages everything: acceleration, wheelie, tire consumption, sliding. I’m not the one who should make the strategy, do you understand? It’s the software that has to be smarter. Now you’ll say: “the software is the same for everyone”. Yes, but there are some who make it work better than others. Do you think that the Yamaha is not a fast motorcycle? Let’s do a race with five laps: all the bikes today are competitive with five laps; even I can win, probably more than the others. But the races don’t last five laps … If you do a 15 lap race, the Yamaha can win. The problem is after those 15 laps, what happens later. The same thing happens to us. Halfway to the end, what do we do? Now you go and explain what I just told you to the person who said that about my race strategy.

You will read it, because I am going to write it as you told me.
– Then that’s fine…

My race strategy? The strategy is decided in the box; the strategy is the electronics that you have on the bike that manages everything: acceleration, wheelie, tire consumption, sliding … I’m not the one who should decide the strategy.

The exit from Ducati, was it a step back in your career as a rider?
– A step back? No, I don’t think so. If you see my results now, they are the results I was doing two years ago with the Ducati, a much worse bike than they have now. Because right now, without any doubt, it is the best bike in the category. When you follow it on the track you can clearly see that. When we left Ducati, we knew it had its very important strengths, I knew I had won a race, I knew that almost every weekend I was fighting for the podium, but at the same time it was clear that something was missing, I saw. In these two years they have done something to the bike that has it accelerating better than any other, and it had the best braking of all. Now it has started to turn…

Since you mention the podium: you, on this bike, made a podium at the beginning of the season.
– Two podiums

Let’s do a race with five laps: all the bikes today are competitive with five laps; I can win that race.

… yes true, two. But then the bike should not be so “bad”.
– Two podiums at circuits with a lot of grip: Jerez, with new asphalt, where I only suffered the last three laps. As you can see in the DORNA videos, when I overtake Petrucci the bike is sliding on acceleration. But at least it only did it on three laps, not eight or nine. The other was in Austin, where two laps from the end it was just as strong as in the first. There the asphalt consumed the tire progressively. For us there was good grip and we were able to be very, very fast.

And what is Andrea Iannone’s mood right now?
– You know, hope is the last thing to die. We try to be very hopeful, very calm, very positive, but also very realistic. Because creating false expectations aren’t useful, because the reality is that in the race we always suffer.

My change to Aprilia is supposed to start from 0, but it doesn’t scare me, I’m ready. I don’t know the team, but I trust the factory.

One last topic. There are riders who work in an environment that we could call “hardcore”, a very personal environment that surrounds them, a Valentino type or Marc Márquez type. On the other hand there are others like Viñales, like Lorenzo who don’t seem to need that personal circle. I think you’re one of these second types.
– I think … I don’t know … It depends on how you get along with people, how much you care about people. I think if you go to a team where there is an important story, where there is an important experience, it’s stupid to take people if they are people who may come from a lower category. On the other hand, if you have people that you trust in any circumstance, if over the years you have managed to create an important relationship, in my opinion it’s right that you have reliable people by your side to get you ready to face a new challenge. I’ll give you an example: I have a great team in Suzuki, but before coming to Suzuki I would have liked to have here the team I had in Ducati, I would have brought all of them with me. And not because those who were here were not competent, not at all, but because when you go to a completely new place, before you can leave behind the old team you need time. When you have spent four years with a team with which you have evolved, with which you have grown as a rider, with which you have had podiums, with which you have won a race, it’s very different. Because there comes a time when you look at yourself and you understand with those people. In my opinion, in MotoGP, the less you change, the better … Always.
I don’t think that those riders who have their own teams, their people, are stupid, or that those who don’t have them are. Everyone has their situations.

Next year you’ll be in the Aprilia box: is it starting from 0 again?
– Yes, but it doesn’t scare me; I’m ready.

And will you take people you trust with you or will you trust the group that you find there?
– In this case I trust the brand, Aprilia. The rest I don’t know; I will get to know them. I can tell you that I’ll go there with the same spirit as always, with that of going back to the top.