Andrea Dovizioso is not a rider who looks for the benchmark time during the winter tests, especially if these tests have just started. At Sepang he continued this way and ended the first of the three days of official tests 11th in the overall standings, without ever feeling the need to make a leap forward in the classification.
Ducati carried out development work on the new chassis and new engine with Michele Pirro (watch the video HERE) during the shakedown days, and Dovizioso today continued the work despite encountering some teething problems for the GP20, which didn’t allow him to put together many laps. In fact, only 35 laps for Andrea, who is usually among one of the busiest on the track during tests.
"It was a classic day, typical of the first day of testing of the year - Dovizioso commented - The bike is not very different from the previous one, but there are several modifications and it is normal that there are small things to fix and they are all things that make you lose time."
In short, not a perfect start.
"It was actually better this way. It was good, because they are all things that mustn’t happen later. Nothing serious, but in general we worked very little today. We didn’t have the opportunity to do certain tests or to do a lot of laps on the track, but we did a good job of bedding in the bike and we hope to find good conditions tomorrow and also start working on the tyres, which are different than in the past".
Have the Michelin changed so much?
"You have to ride in a different way, and this was something that was already clear to me from previous tests, but today it seemed even clearer to me. The bike also needs to be set up differently and how much room there is to improve is still something we have to find out, but there is a lot of work to do from that point of view and today we didn't have time to do it."
So, will the tyres be even more important than in the past?
"In addition to the various things we want to try on the bike, the tyres will be an important if not fundamental aspect of our work. Their behaviour, especially in the final phases, will make a difference both in terms of speed and management in the race. But until you do the races, you will never know."
Yet the engineers strive to bring new engines, continuous innovative aerodynamic solutions. Are tyres the main focus of the work?
"The tyres are the things that make the difference, we all know that. Especially if there is a big difference compared to the past, we must give it priority. Because they make all the difference over one lap, in race pace and on how to adjust the set-up of the bike. They have more grip, they behave differently, the casing is different, so you have to ride differently. In the middle of the corner it requires a different riding style."
Are they softer than in the past?
"When it comes to a Michelin tyre, defining it as soft or hard are not the right adjectives. Maybe it is softer than in the past and also has more grip, but I repeat, the set-up you had before, the way you were looking for traction , does not work with this tyre. So, you have to change your riding, you have to calibrate the set-up and the electronics. These are three things you have to put together and it is not very simple. At the moment, these are just sensations and you have to do a lot of tests to understand if it is really the case."
It seems that in this case, however, the change in the tyres may be more decisive than in the past.
"This year the tyres will be even more important because now they have really changed, with all that entails. In the past there were continually small changes by Michelin to which you had to adapt a little at a time. This tyre behaves in a very different way from the previous one, in my opinion there is still too much work to do. What we are seeing today is not necessarily the reality of the first race or the first races. From what I could see, but that’s not necessarily the case, there is a lot of work to do, so you have to see how much of this work we will be able to do, even depending on the weather, because this is the right track on which to do this type of work, better than Qatar. It is important to work well and there will be big changes as development proceeds in my opinion".
You tried the new chassis in Valencia and then in Jerez and the opinions were not always enthusiastic. Here how do you find the new frame compared to the old one?
"Here there are no more comparisons, we are only working on the new frame that we have now chosen. The differences are small and if there are any, you don't feel them if you don't make a real-time comparison with the previous one. Now we have this, we must try to get the best out of it, also because there are many things to do for new tyres, and we also have new parts to try. Nothing evident, but they are all things that if we make the right choices, all together, they can help us to improve enough".
Was choosing this new frame difficult?
"There were no alternatives to this frame, it brings improvements albeit small ones. But even if the changes are small, it still remains a frame we have to discover. Immediate feedback allows you to understand certain things, then there can be a room to move. There weren’t any alternatives and there was no reason not to choose it; then we will understand how much margin there is as we work and go in certain directions, also keeping in mind the process of adapting to the tyres".
And what about the new super-engine?
"The engine is fine, but I didn't lap with the other riders to see how much it has improved. It’s not that easy to just bring out some extra horsepower easily, especially for us who already have a lot. You can only feel the difference in these cases in fifth and sixth gear, in the other gears the electronics cut the power".
Audio recording by Paolo Scalera and Matteo Aglio