Seventh place in the race at Phillip Island is not exactly the result that Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati would have been hoping for. It should be added though that Dovi, with the 9 points he scored last weekend, has mathematically confirmed second place in the championship for the third consecutive season. Not a reason to break out the champagne perhaps, but being first behind this kind of Marquez might almost be considered a victory.
Dovi hasn't won a race since the Austrian GP and the fact that they are now in Malaysia, a track at which Andrea has won 2 of the last 3 GPs, augers well, though both those victories were achieved in wet conditions. Today saw the ducatista finish free practice in third place, between the Petronas Yamahas and the factory bikes. What kind of day was it?
“Difficult -begins Dovizioso - but all things considered, it's been in line with expectations. During FP2 I actually went quicker than I expected. I made a good lap and am in the top group in terms of pace. I'm not the best but we're in line. Aside from Quartararo, I can't see how we can beat him right now”.
You did a lot better in the afternoon, did you change something on the bike?
“Yes, I tried a different setting, which I really needed. It's not easy to manage but there are more pros than cons”
What are your expectations for the race?
“The pace I had this afternoon on used tyres would allow me to run up front in the race, something I've never been able to do in the dry. I have a chance”
In which direction are you heading in terms of the tyres?
“Last year I suffered a lot with the medium tyres and so I need to understand what's best for Sunday's race. Perhaps the soft can give me something but I didn't have to time to make a good comparison today”.
Fabio Quartararo leads the way, having also set a new track record today. Did you expect him to be so fast from day one?
“Quartararo made an amazing lap. I congratulate him because he's running a great season. He'll be fighting for the title next year because as well as speed on the flying lap, he's very consistent and always there in the race”.
Aside from Quartararo, you are sandwiched between the four Yamahas, they appear to be the favourites for the race.
“The Yamaha performs well at this track and I'm not surprised by the results so far. They are very strong mid-turn and brake effectively, things you need at a track like this”.
You've won twice in MotoGP at Sepang, also scoring 4 podiums. What do you like about the circuit?
“We need to ride very smoothly because there's very little grip, at both front and rear. It's not easy but it's the thing I like best about this track and this race, though it's not easy to manage this aspect on the Ducati”.
Audio recorded by Matteo Aglio