After publishing the first part of the exclusive interview given by Carmelo Ezpeleta to Paolo Scalera yesterday, here is the second part of a long meeting in which the CEO of Dorna touched on many topics. In this interview we deal with Rossi’s possible retirement to the real situation with his bitter rival Marquez, touching the future of MotoGP which is tackling the green revolution in a very different way to the four-wheeled world.
What is Valentino Rossi going to do… stop at the end of the year?
"I have always had a lot of respect for Valentino. I have never asked him about it - Ezpeleta pointed out - I have never asked him if he wants to retire or not. It seems to me a lack of respect to ask such a question. I don't even think that it is a matter of age, Valentino if you look at him now is more physically prepared than he was ten years ago. Because now he trains, while at that time he didn’t! I agree with you that after so many years, maybe he is tired of competing more for his mind than for his body. Should he tell me he wants to continue, he will always have all my support. And afterwards, and only later, we’ll talk about his future after retiring. He talked about it once and I got the impression that he doesn’t want his own team in MotoGP, for the moment at least. I don’t want to take a position on what I think he will do after, but anything he will ask me, I will obviously try and do what I can both from a personal point of view and as the man who runs this championship".
Can you see him as a manager?
"When I call him, he doesn't answer, but I know he will call back: it's a mutual agreement between us. I don't get angry"
"He can do a lot of things, he’s very competent in many areas. He is a pleasant character and he knows how to talk to people. That’s the way I see him, and he too has created a great industry. Everything that revolves around VR46 can lead him to do anything. Tomorrow is his birthday (Ed. this interview took place on February 13). I’ll call him and I already know that he won’t answer me, but that he will then call me back. It is a mutual agreement that we have! I don’t get angry when he doesn’t answer me, it's something that I have fully accepted. I know he has respect for me and if he doesn't answer me it's only because he doesn't have the phone at hand at that moment, but every time he calls me back. Tomorrow is his birthday and Marquez's the day after tomorrow”.
Ezpeleta: "The big mess in 2015 between Rossi and Marquez has not yet been resolved"
Is the big mess of 2015 with Marquez over in your opinion?
"No. It's publicly finished, but it's not really over. I'm not inside any of their heads, but I can see during the Grand Prix meetings the way things really are and they haven't been resolved."
What do you think about Iannone and the situation there?
"I spoke to Iannone: he gave a sample immediately, without waiting to drink, as he was entitled to"
"I am totally opposed to doping, obviously. For me, it’s the equivalent to racing with a bike that has a higher engine displacement. Having said that, I think his guilt must be fully demonstrated. I have seen Andrea two or three times, and obviously I can't interfere in any way with the decision. He told me several things, he also told me about when the sample for the doping test was given in Malaysia. He saw the Wada representative who was there to do the sampling and instead of making him wait as he could have done, maybe drinking a lot of water in the meantime, he let him in immediately and he gave a sample immediately. This is the reason why there was a very high concentration, if he had drunk before maybe things would have gone differently".
Do you think that a not entirely honest person would have behaved differently?
"If Iannone had been in bad faith, he would have behaved differently"
"Maybe he would have urinated before the sampling and maybe things would have changed. If someone takes a substance that he knows he can't take and has to give a sample and is a bit smart, he makes him wait for the sample. That wasn’t how it went, what Andrea told me is true, I verified it. Then he did the hair test and that also confirms certain things. It is not for me to decide but all these elements lead me to think about certain things. There will be the appropriate people to take the right decisions."
Do you think the FIM's approach can change regarding the issue of doping?
"The FIM should present a list of prohibited substances in motorcycling and Wada should accept them"
"In my opinion, the FIM should have a list of prohibited substances concerning motorcycling and not the same list as in athletics for example. I would like there to be this list and Wada to accept it. Having said that, I’m waiting to see the decision but, in my opinion,, no one is guilty until his guilt has been proven."
The broadcasting system of video images is migrating from satellite to the internet, as Sky has done with DazN, for example. How do you think the scenario will change?
"I don't know how it will go, we have to try to find ourselves in the best possible position and I believe that at the moment we have a great show. When everything was free years ago, we saw what happened."
What are you referring to?
"The CRTs helped to give strength to the private teams and some, like Aprilia, were fast"
"When only the big constructors could build bikes and the private teams had no limitations, the manufacturers started to increase the cost of leasing the bikes, creating a dangerous situation. We wondered how we could solve this situation and we reflected on how the standard bikes were built. The solution at that time was the creation of the CRTs, which obviously were not like the factory bikes, but they helped a lot to give teams the strength not to be forced to lease the complete bikes. As Dorna we helped the teams that chose to build the CRTs and some of them were also quite fast, like Aprilia’s. The result was that Honda decided to make its own CRT, which was basically the first Open. In turn, Yamaha decided to make only the engine available. In this way things started to change a bit. Afterwards, we further limited costs by introducing the single control unit, another element that has prevented the price of the package from going up too much. Each step was the result of talks, which allowed us to arrive at the current balanced situation".
We have reached twenty Grands Prix per season. Are we stopping here or will the number increase?
"The number of Grands Prix will increase to 22, no more. But Dorna will pay a nice bonus to everyone"
"I have an agreement with the manufacturers and with the FIM that between 2022 and 2026 there can be no more than 22 Grands Prix per season. So, we will be able to reach this limit, but not exceed it. For the extra Grands Prix, that is the 21st and 22nd race, we will pay a nice extra bonus to everyone, not only to the manufacturers but to all the teams in the world championship in all categories. And that will be it, the number of races will not exceed the ceiling of 22 until 2026".
What will the new events of the championship be?
"In Italy we will always have two GPs. In the Iberian Peninsula five circuits will rotate in order to have 3 GPs in 5 years"
"The problem is that I already know what the new GPs will be and where they will take place. But I can't say until the negotiations have finished. We will probably move more to the Far East, because we have to go racing more in those really strategic countries for the manufacturers and the teams. We are talking about 22 Grands Prix, and I have to create a rotation to move the championship where there is more interest. Everyone tells me that they are happy to have four Grands Prix in Spain, but we can't remain still in this position. In Italy there are two races and it will remain like that, in the Iberian Peninsula where we must also add Portugal with Portimao, there will be three races per season distributed among five circuits. That’s the plan, then if any of the negotiations in progress don’t go well, it will mean that we will run one more race in Spain. The contracts I will make with the circuits in the Iberian Peninsula will be structured so as to guarantee three races every five years, with the awareness that they can be from a minimum of three to a maximum of five".
"Two-stroke engines were cheaper, they were better in many ways for everyone: it was the manufacturers who decided"
Seeing as F1 is trying to go green, how do you see this change?
"I have to have respect for those who are our customers, that is the fans who come to the track and those who watch the Grands Prix on TV. Our goal is to reduce emissions, and this is something that we did a long time before the others. The two-stroke engines were cheaper, they were better in many ways for everyone, but we got to a point that the manufacturers said to us that since the two-strokes polluted a lot, they would stop mass-producing them and switch to four-strokes So the situation changed first with the introduction of the four-strokes in MotoGP, then with Moto2 and finally with Moto3".
Is an electric future possible in your opinion?
"Electric future? Formula E is separated from F1, MotoE takes place during the GP weekend"
"If one day the manufacturers came to us to say that they no longer want to build the current engines, we will know how to proceed. Our job is to organize races. The electric races could certainly have been done in a different way, we could have prepared nice regulations and forced everyone to come racing with electric motorcycles, both manufacturers and private teams. But what guarantee would I have to be able to run the whole system? There are two ways to keep things going, one is the one applied by Formula E, the other is the one we have put in place with MotoE. They have completely separated their races from those of Formula 1. It is one way, but they go and race in different places, they race in cities and we can’t do that. I thought of starting with a system that was ideal in everything, so we thought of making a formula and give the same bike to everyone, so as to avoid any arguments."
Did none of the 'big' manufacturers show interest in a championship that was not a single-make event?
"MotoE races in front of full grandstands and with TV coverage"
"The manufacturers have not shown an interest in having an 'electric battle' for the moment, so the choice of Energica was perfect. Then there is also another point, that is, the one concerning the creation of a potential problem for us, like SBK in a certain way. There are those who say that this is the future, that it is the best solution and that’s okay, but only if I entrust our current teams with the job of carrying out the project. For this reason, I decided to carry on with the project in conjunction with our current races and by ensuring that the bikes will race when the stands are almost full and also giving the same level of TV coverage to the races as what we give to the other categories".
I remember when they brought a Yamaha M1 to the track for the first time and you complained that it didn’t make enough noise.
"The noise? MotoE makes a little. In Argentina, however, I thought I had become completely deaf!"
"Yes, but it’s one thing what I think from a personal point of view, another thing is what the world thinks. But for me the important thing remains respect for the spectators. After each MotoE Grand Prix, we asked spectators what they thought, if they liked it and if the lack of noise bothered them. We had answers of all kinds, there were some people who liked it very much and some who liked it less. But almost nobody complains about the lack of noise. Also, because it actually makes a little noise, it's different but it does. Two years ago, we took MotoE to circuits around the world to do a demonstration lap on every track. When we went to Argentina, I was sitting in my office and I didn't remember that there was the demo lap at that time. I looked at the track and I saw this motorbike go by that was making no noise whatsoever. I immediately thought ‘that’s it, I’ve completely lost my hearing’. I left my office and asked Carolina (his secretary – Ed.) if she had heard the bike and she told me 'look it's electric' (laughs)".
"The web has changed the world. No one ever recognized Criville, Marquez can't even go out of his home"
From newspapers to the web. How do you see this change, do you like it?
"If I can, I will always choose a newspaper, but I cannot deny that every time I wake up in the morning, I read the web. What I do not do - and this is something that concerns only me, it doesn’t mean that I’m against it in general – is that I am not present in any social media network. Because I am 73 years old and I am not interested in telling others what I do every day. I see my children who tell everything, where they are, what they eat. I have nothing against it, and I understand that we must make the best of this system. If we publish a video and a lot of people watch it on social media, then we have important coverage".
Has the web had a decisive impact on motorcycling?
"In 1999, when Criville won the 500 championship and was the first Spaniard to do it, the race in which he became champion took place at a perfect time for Spain because it was held in Brazil, while in Europe it was evening. At the time it was broadcast free-to-air and that race was the most watched event on TV in Spain until the final of the 2010 World Cup. I remember well that success and I remember that afterwards we went out onto the streets with Criville and only a few people recognized him. Now, after the arrival of Movistar first and then the phenomenon of social media, Marquez can't walk on the street. And neither can I. In 1999 nobody asked me anything, not even for a photo or an autograph. Now if I go to the restaurant there is always someone who asks me to take a picture together. And this from a certain point of view means that the popularity of the world championship has grown massively".
Interview by Paolo Scalera