Even if MotoGP has come to a halt, the managers are still hard at work. They need to find out when and how the championship will resume, but also to revise plans for the future. The pandemic triggered by the coronavirus also has strong repercussions on the economy and as a consequence on everything else. These are the issues which Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati Corse's sporting director, is weighing up at the moment. The world championship will probably have a different look about it when we see it again and it is highly unlikely that this stop will not have any repercussions.
"At this moment the most important thing is our health and we are all at home, apart from my son who is a doctor and moves between his house in Turin and the hospital in Aosta. Clearly, we are not used to sitting still for such a long time, we do smart working, meetings via Skype and we are cooling our heels somewhat" Ciabatti tells us.
"Doing 19 Grands Prix is simply not possible, a dozen would already be an excellent result"
The hope is that we will start again soon. Doing 19 Grands Prix is a utopia, what could be a viable solution?
“At this moment I think there is no point of thinking about redoing the calendar. We hope that in the summer or September there will be a chance to do some races in some countries and then we’ll have to use a bit of creativity and imagination. I believe that Dorna is not thinking of organizing 19 races either, they will have to find a minimum number of events that can be held in those countries that have an acceptable situation from a health point of view and who want to accommodate at home a few thousand people from all over the world. We will have to redesign the way we race, and we will have to start again in a different way".
Is there a minimum number of races below which a championship would no longer make sense?
“In an emergency situation like the one we are experiencing at the moment, we have to forget certain limits that the Federation had set itself. The whole sport has stopped, so you have to start again when the situation is safe. I think doing a dozen races would already be an excellent result. "
"Puig thinks that someone is involved in a bit of funny business? Right now, good taste would imply a bit of silence"
Meanwhile, it has been decided to continue with the remote homologation of engines and aerodynamics, is this a satisfactory measure for Ducati?
“Yes, because we were in a situation where the European companies, that is us, KTM and Aprilia, were shut down while nothing had stopped in Japan. Irrespective of all that, the situation was therefore potentially incorrect."
Would you have wanted development to stop completely?
"I think the message has come through loud and clear and the manufacturers have had to file the documentation for the engines, and the same regards aerodynamics, to be checked when the season gets underway. I would say that what had to be done has been done, at this moment Europe is the centre of the pandemic and objectively the European manufacturers are the most penalized. There are a number of things that cannot be done for development by working remotely. "
Alberto Puig, the Honda team manager, said that they were ready to race in Qatar unlike Ducati, that they homologated the engine there and therefore are the only ones who cannot be involved in any funny business.
"Nobody ever thought anyone wanted to be involved in any funny business, but there was a clear situation to deal with: Europe was blocked, and Japan was continuing to work as normal. I don't really want to comment on Puig's words, I think he likes to create pointless and sterile controversies even in a moment like this where good taste would imply a bit of silence that would be appreciated".
"Investment in racing and riders’ retainers will be reduced. Racing in 2021 with the 2020 bikes is a good solution"
Many observers are wondering what will happen to the riders’ contracts after this stop...
“It’s a new situation, unexpected and unwanted by anyone with whom we have to deal. I think this will lead to a rethink about the championship, and the economic crisis that everyone is experiencing will also affect investment in racing. As a company we exist thanks to the support of our sponsors and our partners but also thanks to the bikes we produce and at the moment we are almost all closed and there is not even any possibility, in many parts of the world, to buy a motorcycle. I think it will be a very difficult year for all motorcycle manufacturers and that for the future we will have to have a rethink about the costs incurred for going racing. Racing competition is great, fun, exciting and the best way to promote your brand, but it must have sustainable costs and it will have to be reshaped because of the economic situation that we will experience in the coming years ".
Could the idea of racing in 2021 with the 2020 bikes be a feasible solution?
“Anything that does not detract from the show on the track and that manages to keep costs under control at a time when it is vital to do so, is welcome. There have been no talks yet, but if the 2020 championship were to be held with a reduced number of races, why go and invest in new models for 2021? It could be a solution".
Tomorrow the second part of the interview and the full video. Stay tuned!