Andrea Dovizioso had plans to carry out a very important job today and make the frame of his Ducati GP20 agree with the needs of the new Michelin tires. But it was a plan that ended up in the gravel with Dovi right from the start. Fortunately, it was a harmless slip, and the work program was only modified, moving his experiments to improve the synergy with these Michelin 2020 edition to tomorrow.
So Dovizioso's 15th position in the rankings today was not a wake-up call. He's usually not the type of rider looking for a time reference during the tests. However, there's concern that there might be consequences for the tests tomorrow from the small blow he received when he slipped.
"I wasn't pushing hard at the time," Dovizioso explained his fall. "I only gave it full throttle after Turn 6 and I lost the front. A really slow and insignificant accident, but I went into the gravel, and I couldn't stop the bike. The problem is always my neck. I took a blow. I feel a bit stiff, and I hope that the situation won't get worse tonight because it's a characteristic of mine when these things happen."
These Michelins are creating more of a problem for you. The Yamaha and Suzuki have become much faster at the end of the straight. Is this thanks to the new tires?
"Yes, I'm not surprised that Yamaha and Suzuki have improved in maximum speed because the new tires help the bikes that have higher speed in mid-corner. I think this is the issue with them, but I'm not sure why because I still haven't ridden with someone to understand these aspects. But I think there's still a lot of work to be done for everyone, so I don't know how much of a margin there is both for us and for our rivals. I'm not surprised, however, since the new tires are perfect for the way those bikes are ridden."
Dovizioso: "New Michelins are perfect for Yamaha and Suzuki"
So the engine advantage was lost only with Honda, but was it also with the other rivals?
"W'ell only see it in the race, since everyone is really fast in the tests. If you look at what your rivals have done today, it seems as if everyone could fight for the podium. But that's not how it really is. I think we need to stay focused and improve the aspects we know we can make progress on. Everyone is fast on the flying lap because there's lots of grip. It didn't rain, the track has a good grip. It's easy to be fast."
You thought working on the tires was fundamental. Did you do that today?
"Unfortunately, not that much. We concentrated on the new fairings and some other things in the morning. We did the work we expected to do and had to do work on the set-up in the afternoon, which would have been important for adapting to the new tires. But then I slipped on my first lap right after changing the set-up of the bike, so we couldn't try a different set-up, and that was the negative aspect today. We had other parts to test, so we spent the rest of the afternoon on those."
Dovizioso: "A small mistake changed the day's schedule"
Program delayed until tomorrow then?
"We should be able to dedicate our time to the set-up tomorrow, since we especially need it for the new tires. I think everyone is working hard on this because they're different. I still don't feel as good as I'd like. The grip is there, but the way these tires work is slightly different than in the past. I'm pretty good with the race pace. I'm fast, but I'm not particularly at ease. When I try to push to improve the time, I can't get a fast lap. So I think we have to work on the set-up and my riding style to improve before thinking about a fast time. We still have to understand how much we can improve. The feelings are good, but it takes some hard work to improve the times."
But do you think you fell because of the new tires?
"The new tires have more grip, but I wasn't pushing hard. We had a completely different set-up, and I had just started to push a little at that moment. It was a bit strange to lose the front end, and I don't think it depended on the set-up. I'll check the data to see if maybe I gave too much gas too early or if I was a bit more bent over than usual. Sometimes that's all it takes to fall with the Michelins."
The new engine is expected to have more horsepower. Could it have affected the balance of the bike?
"I don't think the engine has changed the balance of the bike, at least not as much as the tires are doing. I think it's a matter of frame set-up because there's more grip in the rear with these tires. They always tend to push on the front, so the balance is different, and we have try some solutions that we're already familiar with until we make everything work. If you don't try, you won't really know how things are. We also have to work on the electronics because, as much as you can lose grip very quickly with these tires, it's also true that there's more grip. Managing these two aspects is difficult. The transition from maximum angle to the moment of traction is not easy.
Audio recorded by Paolo Scalera