Joan Mir will be back on track tomorrow, for the last 3 days of testing at the Losail circuit, ten or so days before the inaugural race of this 2021 season. The Suzuki rider surprised many observers last year by winning the title and now he will have to prove that he knows how to defend it. The Spaniard is fully aware of this more than anyone else and he is ready for the challenge.
How does 2021 look after the long winter break?
“Well, I guess it’s been good for us. I have tried to prepare myself even better than last year. Physically I am feeling very well, I have had time to rest and to train. I am enjoying this moment a lot because I really like the pre-season time and pushing to be as prepared as possible. But I'm also really looking forward to starting, with new motivations like trying to fight for the title again and trying to ride as well as last year.”
The beginning of the season has been quite strange for the team when everybody learned that Davide Brivio was leaving, so how did you receive the news?
“I found out by phone, but I was on vacation and I thought it was a joke! The truth is that I wish Davide the best because I have a very special affection for him. But I'm not worried about his leaving because I fully trust the team. I know that everyone who is part of it is very capable and we won’t feel his absence.”
How do you think this change might affect the team?
“I don't know. I want to think that it will not affect anything because within the team there are very professional people. Also, Suzuki's top management are really bright people, so I am feeling very calm.”
Does the winter break have a different feel when you’re champion?
“Yes, 100%, because you feel great satisfaction for a job well done. But of course, this year will be more difficult. Last year the pressure was focused on progressing as a rider and consolidating my performances in MotoGP, but this year it has changed. Now I have to be in front and try to defend the title, fight for it, from the beginning. Now the target is podiums every race, or at least battling for them. Whereas, last year at this point, it was enough for us to be aiming for Top-5 finishes.”
How have you spent your time in the last two months?
“I have invested time in myself, spending time with my girlfriend, with my family. During the season, all of us who work in this world know, we have very little time to be at home, so being with my loved ones is very much appreciated. I also had to force myself to take a short vacation because I was too motivated to train all the time! I have also invested time in improving my skills as a rider, of course.”
What has been your favourite type of training?
“I don't like repeating workouts, I like to vary it. So I have several things I really like to do. I do a lot of aerobics sessions like mountain skiing, which is what I enjoy the most. The gym is not my passion, even though I have to do it, so we can remove that from the favourites (laughs). And then there is the bike training…and for that the discipline I like the most is motocross.”
The feeling after getting the crown is an intense one, did it leave you drained or does it give you a real boost?
“Definitely not drained, on the contrary, it has given me more energy. But as I mentioned before, I did have to have a vacation and just get away from motorcycles and routines and everything that goes along with it. It was the only way to rest. A lot of the people around me were feeling quite sick and drained after we finished the championship, I think because of all the hustle and bustle and stress, but luckily I felt good.”
With time to analyse what happened in 2020, what have you learned?
“I prefer not to spend so much time thinking about the title, and I'm already focused on this year and the next goal. I am very happy, very satisfied with the work done, and I have achieved one of my absolute dreams. But my wish is to keep looking forward and win more in MotoGP. I have not really stopped to think about the title and reflect on it. We all like to see that we have achieved dreams, but now that I have achieved it and lived it, what happens to me is that I want more. It is like a drug. If I had known, I wouldn't have started ... (laughs).”
Why did you decide to carry on with number #36 instead of switching to number #1? It seems a lot of people expected you to change…
“Well, it is related to what I explained about looking ahead to the future, I don’t consider that my job is done. One day I really hope to be able to use the number 1 plate, but not now; it is not the time. I am 23 years old and I do not consider that it is the moment for it. If one day I win titles like Márquez or Rossi, 8 or 9 times, if it is possible to achieve those things, I would probably take the number 1. But inside me I don't feel like it's time now. The way I see it at the moment is that number 36 represents hard work, number 1 represents showing off. I want to keep winning and striving, it’s something in my character; I do not want to relax or give up.”
What room for improvement do you have this year?
“I think there is still a margin for improvement, and also one of the advantages I have is that I’m still quite new to the championship, it’s only my third year. The GSX-RR is getting better and better, the team has more experience and this should automatically transfer into good results. We won last year with the package we had, which was very competitive, and starting in the third or fourth row in each race, so I think that if we manage to improve the speed a little to start on the second row it will make my work much easier and I can even be more consistent.”
How do you motivate yourself for the coming season?
“Motivation for me is easy, it comes quite naturally. I am still too young to run out of motivation; hopefully I have a long career ahead of me. This year will be a year in which Marc (Márquez) will return and I would like to measure myself on the track against him, because he is the one who has dominated in recent years, and this would permit me to keep learning, train better as a rider, and improve my speed.”
Analysing the racing scenario, what advantages and disadvantages does 2021 have for you?
“Well, we have to wait and see what will happen to the calendar, but for now what is there should not be a problem for us. With things that cannot be controlled, it is best not to waste time on overthinking. Last year was good for me, and that was a very complicated season. If this year is more normal, it will surely be easier for everyone.”
If we have fewer back-to-back races at the same circuit like last year, will it benefit you?
“Yes, our bike has a very good base which is one of our advantages. When we have repeat races at the same track back-to-back it means the others have more time to get their bikes working better. Last year that was the case at some circuits, so let’s see.”
The regulations and bikes do not change much for 2021, is this good in theory?
“Yes, it can be good for us because the package we have from last year already has a good base and as soon as it improves we will notice it a lot. But if not, we already know that the bike works very well.”
It seems that this year the calendar could be a little more normal than that of 2020, but we continue with the threat of Covid-19, how much stress does it generate to be competing against an unseen rival?
“We already know what we have to do, but in some ways that makes it worse; before we just kept going, more relaxed and unaware of what we would find. But this year there will be more pressure to not get infected, not to leave the bubble, because I’ve already seen some riders that lost a lot due to the virus last year.”
What goals have you set apart from defending the title?
“My main objective, and that of my team, is to improve our qualifying performances. We already know that in the races we are quite fast. But if you start higher up the grid it goes without saying that it’s easier to fight for the podium or victory. So we have to improve in that area and that is why I want to be focused this pre-season and be able to take a step forward.”
2021 will be a year with several riders and team changes, who do you see among your biggest rivals?
“Well, I think Morbidelli will be a very difficult opponent, but it’s quite hard to choose the main contenders because last year it was a very strong field and this year will be even more so. Marc (Márquez), if he's okay, he will be the rival to beat for everyone; also my team-mate Alex will be fast.”
How do you think your team-mate will perform?
“Very well! We have to try to get both of us Suzuki riders at a very high level and encourage each other, because that will also improve the bike naturally. I think last year we did that a bit and we both fought in each race as if it were the last, giving 100%.”