The tremors caused by the clash between Valentino Rossi and Marc Márquez in Argentina has been the main focus of attention for the start of the 2018 season, relegating everything else to the background. And in this “everything else” is the situation at Ducati, where two extreme realities exist.
Two realities that surely would have filled many headlines if the commotion from the events at Termas didn’t exist. That’s why this article is titled the “silent” Ducati world. Among the ranks of Borgo Panigale’s team there are two worlds as opposite as yin and yang. On the one hand there is Andrea Dovizioso’s World Championship lead, and at the other end of the scale, Jorge Lorenzo’s frustration.
Dovizioso’s “silent” leadership
Carefully reviewing the race at the American GP—the intensity of the weekends makes you miss many details—gives the impression that Dovizioso was very clear as to what he could aspire to in Austin. Likely Andrea did not calculate the unexpected appearance of his ex-teammate Andrea Iannone, but otherwise, he raced with the “spiritual calm” that characterizes him. An example of what we are talking about is how he managed the duel with Johann Zarco …
Reviewing the race, it seems that Dovi understood the only point where he could and should overtake the Yamaha rider was the straight. For those who have access to the images, you’ll notice that he waiting calmly for the precise moment; There is no rushed attempt. His post-race statements clearly reflect his strategy: “In my opinion today the fifth place is the maximum we could aspire to.”
With Rossi finishing an “unattainable” fourth place, Andrea waited for the right moment to overtake Zarco; He only made one attempt. “Why risk more if I can’t get further ahead?” was surely what went through his pragmatic head.
In 2017, Andrea returned from the United States fourth in the provisional with 30 points total; this season he became leader of the World Championship with 46 points.
For someone who won five of the last ten GPs, fifth place in Austin may seem a disappointing result, but in reality it was not at all, in fact quite the opposite … for two reasons. On the one hand, a fifth place at one of the most complicated circuits for the Desmosedici is a good result; on the other, because the 10 points meant that Dovizioso arrives in Europe as the leader of the championship. In 2017, Dovi left the United States fourth in the provisional with 30 points; This season he has 46 and he is first with Márquez and Viñales behind him. This difference is important, is not it?
But Ducati and Dovizioso have another two complicated races where the goal is again likely to be to finish with the least amount of damage as possible: Jerez and Le Mans. The Spanish circuit is one of those which, in MotoGP, Andrea has never managed to finish above a fifth place, regardless of the bike he has been on. The following weekend will be another one of those races to “save as much as possible.” Le Mans, next to Sachsenring and Phillip Island are the other circuits marked in red on the Ducati calendar.
Jerez is one of Dovi’s taboo circuits: in MotoGP he has never managed to finish higher than 5th place, regardless of the bike he has been on.
So, taking history into account, it can be said that the start of the season for Andrea is still quite good, although rider and team prefer to adopt a low profile. Getting past the difficult dates with numbers higher than last year while waiting for the championship to reach “favorable terrain” is the best that can happen for both parties…And for the moment this is being fulfilled.
Lorenzo’s “silent” cavalry
If Andrea Dovizioso is the Yin at Ducati, Lorenzo is the Yang. The beginning of season for the Spanish rider has been disturbing. More than the results—a crash in Qatar, 15th in Argentina and 11th— but also, even especially for, the sensations. The progression that Jorge showed in the second part of last season seems to have hit a wall … It’s as if he has returned to square one.
What’s more, the post-race Lorenzo in Austin looked like one of those groggy boxers who don’t know where they are or what’s going on. It’s true that Argentina and Texas are complicated tracks for Ducati and that the brake failure in Qatar didn’t help, but the Mallorcan seems as though he is blocked over what is happening.
Throughout his career, Lorenzo has found himself in complicated situations, such as in China 2006 in 250cc or in Catalonia in 2008 in MotoGP. Those were difficult moments for Jorge, full of questions and doubts. I know this well because at that time the relationship with him was quite close. He managed to get got out of those critical situations thanks to his determination, his positive stubbornness, which is another facet of his character. I reminded him of this in a recent conversation. “I know Manolito,” he replied. “But I can’t find the point to this bike,” he said shaking his head. “I cannot get on with this bike.”
Post-race in Austin, Lorenzo looked like one of those groggy boxers who don’t know where they are or what’s going on.
They say that experience is the mother of science, and in this case, from experience I think I know that Lorenzo’s exit from the depths he is in will happen through several things. The first will be to focus on the problems he is having and try to live with them. The solution is to neither seek perfection—i.e turn the Ducati into a Yamaha—nor look to the other side of the box, much less to Tito Rabat’s bike.
From the hand of Dovizioso, Gigi Dall’Igna and his engineers have shown that the Ducati is a winning motorcycle. So it’s up to Lorenzo to take more steps towards adapting to his bike than the other way around. It’s true that Jorge has a distinctive style that is quite unique, but the situation will not change if he doesn’t understand that he must keep changing his style of riding. The Ducati, like the Yamaha or the Honda, has its own unique DNA, and it is what it is.
Jerez is a track where Jorge has always gone well; last year he made his first podium with Ducati there. It’s important that next weekend his sensations on the bike improve.
The ranks of Ducati are managing this crisis with discretion and with “administrative silence”. It’s not an easy situation considering how Lorenzo joined on the Bologna team: as the expected messiah who was going to bring the title and with a deal that turned him into the highest paid MotoGP rider. His character and a personality not geared to manage difficulties does not help either, but so far the team has been coddling their rider.
Contrary to his teammate, Jerez, where the GP of Spain is held next weekend, is a track where Jorge has always gone well. Without going back further, last year he had his first podium with Ducati there. The Spanish circuit could mark a turning point in Lorenzo’s frustrating start to the season. It’s important that at least his sensations on the bike improve … because 16 races remain!