Honda is not moving ahead, but maybe something is changing. Alvaro Bautista finished the Phillip Island tests, the last ones before the start of the season, in 17th position, almost a second and a half behind the first in the class, Johnny Rea, but his teammate, Leon Haslam, is third.
"Today, the sensations I had on the bike were better than yesterday. I improved a little, but I'm certainly not at my best in performance," Alvaro Bautista explained ." I tried new things today that have positive and negative points, but now we've collected data, and we have to try to analyze them to make progress for the weekend."
These first few laps of the season with Honda are not giving the desired results. When you signed the contract, didn't you expect to be able to fight for the first places already?
"Yes, and I would have expected to fight for the championship right away. Maybe I'm having more problems than I would have expected."
How do you feel on the bike compared to last year? In these same tests, in 2019, you finished in first place with a time of 1'30"303. Today, you're 17th and almost two seconds from that time.
“In the morning, I didn't feel bad on the bike, and the times were acceptable. Obviously, nothing compared to my pace last year, so I'm still a bit far, but I'm sure that we'll improve, little by little. We do long runs in all the sessions. In the second session today, I did 23 laps and, by working like this, I get to understand interesting things about the behavior of the bike over long distances, especially from an electronics viewpoint. Honda and I are not in the position where we should be, so we have to improve a lot and, to do this, we have a lot of data from these test days."
What are the problems with this bike? It was the most anticipated of the year, but now it doesn't seem to be a problem for Rea & Co.
“Our problems are a combination of factors between the engine and the frame. The bike is too responsive. Now we have to try to "calm down" this Honda's responsiveness in both areas because it's so difficult to tame all the power it has."
What do you expect at this point from this weekend's race? Will you try to focus on the times or will your priority still be development?
“I have no expectations on the result of the first race weekend. I have them on the sensations and on the development of the bike. Now I have to focus on myself and not on others, since many are stronger in the tests than in the race. I do the opposite. I use the tests to feel comfortable and improve the sensations with the bike and then push. In these tests, I never tried to find a lap time. For example, my best lap this morning was one second from the best, but I did it in the race simulation, after 15 laps. Now I have to focus only on myself, and on the Honda. Then, when everything is clear, I'll have to start pushing. The important things happen in the races, not in the tests, but I'm certainly not in the same situation as last year. I'm far behind, and I have to improve my confidence with the bike."
So I understand that CBR development will still be your priority...
“If we reach 30% of the bike's development over the race weekend, I'd be happy. Now we're at 20%. The championship is very long. We have to think about improving race after race because, like I said, the question is when we'll reach the best level, not if.”
Audio recorded by Riccardo Gugliemetti