It's curtains up on the Australian GP, which opens with the traditional Thursday press conference. First to speak is Marc Marquez, current championship leader, 11 points ahead of Andrea Dovizioso: “Last weekend was fantastic – recalls #93 - but now we need to focus on Phillip Island and try to be fast right from the start. I really like the track and will do my best to be competitive while bearing the risks in mind”.
His direct rival in the title fight listens to his right: “Dovi is clearly the most dangerous. I need to take more notice of him than I did before, but I also need to keep an eye on Vinales. Right now, every single point can make a difference”.
The battle between Marquez and Dovizioso looks like it will go to the wire“At every track there's a different feeling– analyses Marc - in Austria for example I was able to brake well, much better than in Japan. I have to say that the Ducati is a bike that allows for hard, late braking. I've definitely learned a lot during these races and will try to change my strategy for the future”.
The Spaniard's final words regard the track: “The corners are fast here and pace is fundamental. The last two are the toughest”.
On the left of the five-time champ is Maverick Vinales: “I arrive here with a very different bike to that of Motegi and I'm interested to see how competitive it will be - states the Yamaha rider - I have no pressure and will do all I can to be fast, as I really like the track”.
Maverick knows it's an uphill climb as far as the title is concerned: “The championship battle is no longer in my hands. Considering the gap, I'd need my rivals to make a mistake. I hope for a dry race, but I need to learn to be fast in the wet too, especially with a view to 2018”. And to think that no-one could touch the Yamaha rider during the winter tests: “During the pre-season I was really confident– he recalls – it's been hard to run up front in the last races. If I think about Silverstone for example, where I was competitive, I only went on the attack at the end. The last lap at Le Mans is my best memory of the season, Montmelò the worst”.
Seated close to the Spaniard is Andrea Iannone, who finished fourth at the Twin Ring: “Motegi was the best weekend of the season for me. I was really pleased with my performance, also because we've worked hard to move in the right direction”. The Italian is therefore feeling confident ahead of Phillip Island, a track of which he has good memories: “I really believe in the steps we've taken and in the bike's potential. I also remember the 2015 race in Australia, a great moment”.
Jack Miller is back this weekend, having been forced to miss Japan due to a fractured tibia and fibula: “It was a pity about the accident. It hasn't been easy to get back to 100% after the operation. I had a chance to ride in Japan but I preferred not to take any risks”.
The Honda rider's home race has a special flavour: “This is a special races, particularly in terms of the fans. It's like a bridge linking Phillip Island to Australia - he adds – I have to say that I've worked during this break, also riding my quad. Rossi's rapid return after his accident also put me under some pressure (he smiles)”.