By Manuel Pecino
Second place for the third consecutive year can be considered a positive result in the era of the “alien” Marquez. But in 2017 if Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati’s second place had a near triumphant flavor thanks to his six victories and the return to the top for the Borgo Panigale factory, and in 2018 with Dovi’s seven wins and Jorge Lorenzo coming on strong at the end of the season, a 2019 championship seemed just steps away. So far the season saw only three wins for Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci, and although the man from Forlì is close to record points in MotoGP and Ducati has achieved its highest number of podiums since the 2007 winning season, the World Championship ended with four GPs remaining for the first time in the Marquez era. For this reason, the Red brand’s project seems to require a sidestep. We talked about this with Paolo Ciabatti, Borgo Panigale sporting director.
In an interview granted by Gigi Dall’Igna a few days ago it was understood that Ducati is interested in Maverick Viñales …
No, sorry, it’s not like that … It is ‘understood’ that Gigi said there are riders, in addition to the ones we already have, who are interesting, which is quite different.
So what is the correct interpretation?
It’s obvious that at this moment it’s necessary to assess what possibilities there are for 2021 but without forgetting what we already have at home. In this sense, I think Gigi in his interview spoke about four riders: Marquez, Quartararo, Viñales and Rins. They are riders that could be interesting because all of them have won races in MotoGP, except for Fabio who made a fantastic debut in the category and continues to improve. It’s clear that Marquez is the dream of all the teams at the moment, but I think he will stay in Honda because he is very comfortable with them … and without Marquez they would not be where they are now.
Have there been contacts made yet or are they merely ideas?
They are ideas.
“It would be illogical not to think of Dovizioso for the future. He has finished second in the championship for the third consecutive season and is the rider who has won the most MotoGP races since 2017, behind Marquez”, Paolo Ciabatti
Ducati has been accused in the past of making rash decisions. I mean the ordeal with Jorge Lorenzo. Don’t you think it’s too early to talk about riders when the ones you have are under contract until the end of 2020?
It’s not soon because it’s necessary to assess the situation to have a clear idea for 2021. Because if you know that a rider is going to absolutely going to stay on a team, then you disregard it. Being aware of what happens in the market is very different from contacting other riders.
As for what you mentioned about Lorenzo, there are times when you have to make a decision because it may be that the particular opportunity before you does not arise again. People forget, for example, that when Honda decided to sign Stoner, it was decided almost one year before he actually joined the team.
Anyway … Talking openly and publicly about the existence of a list of candidates, isn’t it counterproductive to the motivation of your current riders?
Let’s see … We have with us Dovi who has finished second in the championship for the third consecutive season, and who is the rider who has won the most MotoGP races since 2017, after Márquez. Only Marc has finished ahead of him these three years, so it would be illogical not to think about Dovizioso for the future. But the years pass and you also have to value other options for the future.
We have Miller and Bagnaia on Team Pramac. Miller is doing well and Pecco has had a difficult season. He has had more problems than we expected, it’s true, but we can’t lose sight also of the fact that he is riding a 2018 motorcycle in a championship where the level is extremely high. But the reality is that the previous two seasons his progression in Moto2 was impressive. Next year with the 2020 motorcycle we are confident that it may be at the level of Quartararo or riders in front … I believe that the talent is there.
Ducati’s anti-Marquez plan: A new Desmosedici with major technical changes, 2020 motorcycles ready for the Valencia test, four official riders on the track with GP20 bikes next season…
The official Ducati riders are currently Dovizioso and Petrucci, and they are there because they have shown they could win. If you look at the riders who have won GPs this year they are Marquez, Viñales, Dovizioso, Petrucci and Rins … On this short list I only see two riders who have been able to win with the same motorcycle, Andrea and Danilo. That said, it is our responsibility to be attentive to the riders’ market. Like it or not, it changes and you have to be ready to understand each situation and see if at any given time you have to make the moves that are of your interest.
So it’s not in your interest to say: we’ll wait until July to make a decision.
No…The dynamics are quite simple. There are times when you find out that a team is trying to sign with a specific rider, and if this rider interests also you, it’s necessary to make an approach. If you don’t, how will that rider’s manager know about your interest? If you don’t take that step, he will think he has only one option or he will choose the option that suits him best, without knowing what you may offer him is better … This is the market; you can’t do it any differently.
“In the Reparto Corse we are working 360 degrees: on the engine, the chassis, electronics, and aerodynamics to fight with Marc we need a motorcycle that is clearly superior to his”, Paolo Ciabatti.
Who marks the market times?
It depends, the times depend a lot on different factors … Look, since we mentioned Jorge before: When we started talking to him at the beginning of 2016 he was world champion and had an offer to renew with Yamaha, but for whatever reason he was open to evaluate other options. Yamaha’s offer had an expiration date, so we had to move quickly to get him. If the rider you are interested in has no other offer than yours, of course you can wait longer, which certainly helps to make decisions with a better perspective. I say this because if you can wait to close in June / July, it’s been nearly half a season and you have more facts to evaluate. But most of the time it is not possible … For example: Who thought last year that Quartararo would have such an amazing season? Moreover, last year, when he was signed by Petronas, more than one person shook his head.
It’s true, I should probably include myself in this group, those who didn’t believe he merited a move to MotoGP…
We were all completely wrong! … Situations like Quartararo’s are what make the market interesting.
Let’s go back to the future of Ducati. From what you just told us, the category of ‘young rider with growth prospects’ have Bagnaia and Miller in there. Can you say then that what Ducati looks for is directly an anti-Marquez?
Is there even an anti-Marquez?
But if it doesn’t exist, Ducati already has the second best rider of the last three seasons …
True. But the question is also to assess what other possibilities are there.
Possibilities of what?
To improve what we have at the moment. Something that is not easy, since there are Dovizioso’s three sub-championships and the victories with two different riders this year, but it is our obligation to investigate and assess whether we can improve.
We return to the point of ‘looking to the future’ …
Yes, because a day will come when a rider will appear who is faster than Marquez; That is true, it always happened in this sport, although it’s not the case at the moment. We have finished second for three consecutive years: it is an incredibly important result, but Ducati is here to win, let that be clear, and that is why we have to continually consider and weigh the situation, and move and make decisions when it is necessary…You have to be ready.
So if possible, you can improve on the existing rider package, but I suppose that to the other factor, the bike, you also need to apply that continuous evaluation philosophy, correct?
The Ducati is a very competitive motorcycle, but some of the advantages we had last year with respect to other motorcycles we no longer have so much, this season. We have won fewer races than last two years, even if we scored the highest number of podiums since 2007, our winning year with Stoner. The philosophy of Gigi Dall’Igna and the Reparto Corse is that of continuous development, never stop working on improving the existing motorcycle; It has always been like this. It’s clear we must take a couple of steps forward. It’s not easy, but we are working 360 degrees: on the engine, the chassis, electronics, aerodynamics…To fight with Marc we need a motorcycle that is superior to his. Because he is a rider who does not make mistakes now, and at any circuit and under any condition he is always fighting to win. I do not remember a season in the last fifteen years where a rider has always finished first or second, except Austin where technical problems on his motorcycle caused him to crash.
“We have finished in second place for three consecutive years. It is an incredibly important result, but Ducati is here to win, let that be clear. For that we must constantly consider and weigh the situation and make decisions when necessary…We must be ready”, Paolo Ciabatti .
2020 – What can we expect from Ducati?
You can expect what we are doing: having a motorcycle with improvements important enough to be in a position to stand up to Marquez again. Also remember that we will put four official GP20 motorcycles on the track for the first time: those of Dovizioso and Petrucci, and those of Miller and Bagnaia. It is a great effort for the Reparto Corse, but as I said before, we are not here for second places and that is why we will put everything on the table. We will go out to compete for the win … At the same time we will do everything in our power so that Danilo recovers the level he had at the beginning of this season. He hasn’t forgotten how to ride a motorcycle. Between the new motorcycle and the best version of our riders I think we will have a good package.
…Beating Marquez is the only target
The strategy is to try to beat Marc in all circuits where we can win, and where we can’t we must still be in the top positions. It is the only way to aspire to fight for the championship until the end of the season. It is not easy, but it is our goal.
And when will we see the Desmosedici 2020?
In Valencia … Almost definitively, but without the final fairings, which we will probably put on at the last test in Qatar because when new things are visible, you don’t show them earlier because they can be imitated.
The 2020 Desmosedici will be on track in Valencia. It will be a nearly definitive version, but without the final fairings, which we will probably put on at the last test in Qatar because when new things are visible, you don’t show them earlier because they can be imitated.
I understand that Pirro and the test team are working hard.
Yes, Michelle is working always very hard. He and the development team are working 100%. But, we still did not have enough time to try everything we wanted to try, but I have maximum confidence that the 2020 bike will be a super competitive motorcycle piloted by four riders eager to win races.