Gigi Dall'Igna reviews Ducati's 2017 season. A championship that saw Andrea Dovizioso and the Desmosedici GP fighting for the title (albeit with a significant points difference to Marquez) at the final race at Valencia. A year that may not have brought that final cherry but one that has brought many positives, not least the growth of the Bolognese GP bike, now at the level (or even higher) than that of Honda and Yamaha, despite regulation changes complicating things for the men in red. Monday's post-race press conference also gave the Italian engineer a chance to clarify Jorge Lorenzo's race conduct. Some believe that he let Andrea Dovizioso down. In reality though, as Dall'Igna explains, it was the exact opposite.
"This season has definitely been positive for Ducati – states Ducati Corse Technical Director Dall'Igna - the best season since my arrival in Ducati. We battled for the title until 6 laps from the championship's end. We can only be pleased with what we've done. There has been significant technical growth and this will be useful next year when we hope to make that final step, to win the championship. We've improved despite some hiccups after Qatar, but we were able to react without losing our heads. Particularly from Mugello onwards."
Then it's on to the Valencia race itself. Was there perhaps some incomprehension between the garage and the riders on track?
"In the garage, we had the impression that Dovi was quicker than Lorenzo so we told Jorge to make way. But it was a suggestion based on our impressions. But in actual fact, Lorenzo was quicker – as confirmed by both riders – and the pair was faster with Jorge in front. The aim was to stay close to the leaders while putting the rear tyre under as little strain as possible in order to be in the best condition."
"I believe they acted for the best. I wasn't pleased at first because we had made a suggestion to Lorenzo, and because we thought they'd be quicker with Andrea in front. But we talked it through in 30 seconds. I'm convinced that if Jorge had had to make choices to help Dovi win, he would have done so. I have no doubt. I don't need to worry about that."
Do you feel other manufacturers have set Ducati in their sights? You introduced wings and they banned them, you interpreted the regulation in a new way and it was revised.
"As for the wings, the argument was not really an honest one as far as I'm concerned. Then this year there was an argument about testing, which I can understand in some ways. As we are based in Europe it is easier for us to go and test on the world's tracks. Our Japanese rivals have more difficulty. It makes sense to reduce the number of test tracks for the test riders, but I don't agree with the way or time frame in which they reached this definition. We had already planned our tests and ways to have our riders on track. But we had to completely change our schedule which I don't think was fair.
He then adds: "I do agree with the test team formula, just not with the way it was applied. Going from 5 to 3 tests is OK. It's clear that if the number of races increases, room for testing with the official riders is reduced, but here too I would have set a different time frame for making these changes to be honest."
How do you see Lorenzo's season?
"We're not pleased with how's it gone, but I think the first person to be disappointed is Jorge himself. We thought it would go differently, but we have to admit that the move from Yamaha to Ducati is not easy. And he had trouble adapting. But from mid-season on, he made progress and in the last races we saw him playing the role of protagonist. I'm confident ahead of next year anyway."
Do you still intend to run a Ducati Moto3 in the future?
"Yes, I remain convinced that this is an important category. By also having a Moto3, you to get to know the riders early on, and then it's easier to follow them and help them grow until they reach MotoGP. This is just an idea of mine for now though. I think it's important to do it, but there are many pieces missing, and things need to be done in the right way. So for now I prefer to wait."
Testing in preparation for 2018 is already underway. On what will your work focus?
"We'll be working on the engine, despite it being one of our strengths. There are many areas in which we can improve, though speed through the turns remains one of the main goals. A problem cited by both riders."