The first qualifying of the championship ended with a below par result for Pecco Bagnaia, who wraps up the third row on the grid four tenths from pole, so tomorrow he will start in ninth position behind Joan Mir's Suzuki. So perhaps he is now paying for the commitment he made in the development of the bike and the tight time scale that didn’t allow him to fully focus on his feeling with the bike, but luckily for him, Qatar is a historically congenial track to the Italian bike, so nothing is yet decided.
"It wasn't my best qualifying - Pecco told us - but that's okay, I gave my all and the positive note is that I found that feeling with the bike on the front. During FP4 with a medium I had a good pace not too far from the times of the others, but then in qualifying I lost that feeling again, I was unable to push the bike to its limit. This was also the first time since the beginning of the tests in which I used the same bike in two different sessions, so I'm happy to be able to start working in this direction. After all, development is an essential element when you're part of a Factory team and I'm convinced I've done a good job today for the other Ducatis too. "
This work you talk about, is that what you mentioned days ago? Can it be said to be concluded at this point?
"Yes, this year since the first days of testing I have always worked for the team without thinking about myself. Even today in FP4 and during qualifying it was not easy not to think only for myself. Tomorrow the warm-up will be essential to find the right confidence with my bike to be able to tackle the race in the best possible way. We can say that my championship has actually started today, because up to now I have not been able to concentrate only on myself. When I returned to the pits the first thing I said was that I was happy to have regained confidence with the bike and my riding style ".
This was your first year after development was unfrozen. Did this create difficulties for you? Was it something that took you by surprise?
"We did a lot of tests, perhaps even too many, and the days of testing were too few. I know we did a great job, but I also know that the result of this qualifying is the outcome of this other commitment. As a rider I needed to find a good feeling with the bike again and I think I did it today, but I'm not complaining about the time it took for development, it's part of my job as a factory rider and I'm happy with the results ".
Marc Marquez took advantage of a tow, which didn't surprise many, but he wasn't the only rider today. Especially considering the track conditions (the wind, ed.) maybe it would have been useful, what do you think?
"Yes, in these conditions a tow can earn you three tenths, which is a lot. But I am the type of rider who prefers to do it alone, I preferred to stay on the outside and do my time and the tests on my own. We knew it would be difficult to be on the front row, but I think I found the right confidence with the bike, what I missed was taking it to its potential limit. Now that I have regained my riding style I can concentrate on refining the set-up of the bike ".
What are your expectations for tomorrow's race?
"Realistically, finishing in the top five would be a good result. Many riders have been faster than me this weekend and this has to be taken into account, but we did a good job with the bike and I think the improvements will come."
Do you think you can't go any better than the top five for superstition or do you think there is an actual limit? After all, starting ninth on this type of circuit is not as disastrous as it might seem.
"It is true that starting from ninth here is not like doing it, for example at Jerez, there is a long straight and you can't push to the limit right away because tyre drop here is a risk factor that should not be underestimated. It's clear that the goal of the season is to win the championship, and I would like to be able to say that I have a very strong chance of winning tomorrow, but I prefer to be credible and realistic by saying that a top 5 is a valid goal simply because for now I have not shown that I have the pace to do it. Obviously anything can happen, we're good at making a difference during a race, but Suzuki and Honda have improved a lot, and both Marquez and Quartararo are in great form. "
This is the first season that no tests have been held here in Qatar, do you think it was a negative factor for the development?
"For sure five days of testing in Indonesia were not enough, especially if we consider that we lost almost two days due to the terrible track conditions. A few more days of testing would certainly have been useful. Instead we finished the tests virtually close to the race, and only now will I be able to focus on my riding style again. "
Taking yourself out of the equation, who do you see with the highest chance of winning among the other Ducatis in the front rows?
"I think Enea is in a great position, his Ducati is the one already defined last season, and he too was very fast and is in excellent form, he was also very good at getting a result by getting round some problems. However, Jorge Martin was also very impressive with his riding style. He managed to exploit the bike's full potential and pole is proof of that. The race is obviously a very different situation, and Enea has an excellent race pace to try to win".