As MotoGP prepares to start up again, with the possibility of a first race on 19 July in Jerez, the teams are also starting to reflect on their future. While Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki sorted things out early on, the situation is still fluid at Ducati and all eyes are on Andrea Dovizioso. Simone Battistella, manager of the Forlì rider, is getting ready to deal with the negotiations.
Simone, the riders can't race in this period so what do their managers do?
"Managers work from home, trying to gather as much information as possible and continue to communicate, to create content with the riders; there is greater interaction also with the fans and fan clubs. Furthermore, we are also beginning to talk about the future, the contracts for 2021 and 2022, even if we are in a kind of limbo because nobody is racing. It is based on the parameters that we had at the end of last season, so for young riders it is more complicated than riders with more experience ".
So the market has started up again?
“We are starting to talk but based on what we already knew before. As we are not racing, you cannot know what the performance of the riders and motorcycles might be ".
Battistella: "Negotiations will begin between the end of May and the beginning of June"
Rossi said he will have to decide whether to continue before the start of the championship, will this be an isolated case? Any reference to Dovizioso is not casual…
“I think not, in the best of circumstances we will start racing in the second half of July and it would be too late to start talking. Furthermore, they would be conversations based on one or two races, moreover on the same track, after a long break: it would therefore be a situation of uncertainty about the value that can be given to a rider or a motorcycle. The first two possible races at Jerez are on a track with certain characteristics that benefit or disadvantage certain riders and motorcycles, so judging on this basis would be of little use. We might as well start talking between the end of May and the beginning of June. "
We have been used to two-year contracts in recent years, could we start to think about annual agreements given these particular conditions?
“It is worth continuing to think about two-year deals because they are contracts that give more scope to the project. One must also think that negotiations during the season are however a nuisance, a moment in which tension can be created and this always comes at the expense of performance, the rider and the team. So finding a two-year deal means having at least a year and a half of time working without that kind of pressure. Of course, each case is different, for example HRC has signed a one-year contract with Alex Marquez, this gives you a bit more flexibility in renegotiation."
"The story between Ducati and Dovizioso is very important for both of us"
Dovizioso, a few weeks ago, made everyone prick their ears up when he said that he was not sure he would continue in 2021. Is this alert still valid?
"There has never been any danger, indeed he used this period to train with great discipline and intensity, so he is very motivated, and all fired up for this season. Clearly, he is a rider who, rightly, wants to race in the right conditions, therefore as part of a project and a structure in which he believes, this is a fundamental aspect. There is no reason to think of an imminent retirement. "
In one of our interviews, Ducati team manager Davide Tardozzi vigorously defended Dovizioso. Is this a positive sign?
“I think Davide was being objective: in the last three years Andrea has done something that no one else has managed to do, apart from Marquez. Since Marc has been in MotoGP, he has only lost one championship in 2015, learning what it means to feel omnipotent, as he said: his mistake was to feel invincible. In his era, Andrea has been the only rider who has managed to cause him problems and beat everyone else. So this rider, with this bike and with this team, together, have managed to do something really important and with consistency. We need to give the right value to these performances: the rider, the team and the bike ".
If that’s the case, there seems to be an intention to continue. Is Ducati the first choice for Dovizioso?
"It is neither the first nor the last choice; when we start negotiations - at the moment we have not yet done so - both sides will consider what has been done so far, and it is a lot. The story of Ducati and Dovizioso starts after Valentino Rossi, coming out of a difficult situation that had been going on for a couple of years. Then, with great commitment and hard work, we managed to get to the current level. This is an important story, both for Ducati and Dovizioso. "
Battistella: "Money becomes a problem only when the value of a rider is not recognized"
But last year there was a lot of talk about disagreements between Dovizioso and Dall'Igna…
“These are situations that must be looked at as a whole. First of all, from certain tensions a positive result can emerge, because we are talking about a confrontation between two strong characters who have a common purpose, that of winning. There may be a difference of opinion, the important thing is to be able to channel these energies in search of a result. We have to be scared relatively little by these things because they happen everywhere, just remember the declarations of the Yamaha riders in recent years, for sure there was a lot of tension. Today's MotoGP lives in finding the limit of everything and the ambition to obtain certain results sometimes leads even to a tough confrontation, but it is for a common purpose ".
How much will money count in the negotiations? Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti has said several times that there will be a reduction in salaries…
“Retainers are a problem only when the rider has the feeling that his value is not recognized. We must be objective in admitting that we are in the middle of an unusual situation and that, most likely, the teams' financial resources for the next contracts will not be the same as those of last year, also for sponsors. The problem of money, however, is secondary to the project, I work with riders with whom I talk about money after talking about technical matters ".
"Dovizioso is serene about his future, he wants to evaluate all the options"
What indications has Dovizioso given you so far?
"He is very serene; he wants to evaluate the options as objectively as possible and then make an informed decision."
If we eliminate Yamaha, Suzuki and Honda, which have virtually concluded their rider market, Ducati, from a technical point of view, seems to have an advantage and it remains the most attractive bike…
“The current MotoGP leaves no room for those who do not have a real commitment to winning. There are no structures that participate just for the sake of being present. Ducati, KTM, Aprilia have the same ambition even though they are in different positions regarding the final goal, therefore the project must be evaluated".
You also follow other riders, including Baldassarri. Will it be more difficult for a Moto2 rider to make the jump into MotoGP in 2021 in the current situation?
“It is certainly more complicated because you cannot evaluate those riders. It is highly likely that the MotoGP teams will say: if these riders were going well yesterday then they will go well today. However, if there are any doubts, it is better to wait for the start of the season. In this sense, the Moto2 riders will have to wait for the end of August or the beginning of September to see if there will be any places available in MotoGP ".