The countdown to Valencia has begun, but for sure it’s not going to be any old GP but the one in which Ducati could return to win the MotoGP riders title after a 15-year gap. Bagnaia is one step away from the title, 23 points clear of Quartararo, Fabio is forced to win and hope that Pecco will bring home only one point or less to ruin the party.
Now it seems to be all over bar the shouting but - if only for good luck – everyone is feeling a bit of pressure. Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati's sporting director, tries to keep the climate as serene as possible.
"The pressure is now on Quartararo's shoulders"
"We experienced the comeback phase with greater tension because it was not at all taken for granted, now there is the right concentration to finish the job – the Ducati sporting director tells us - Fabio will be forced to win the race, with Pecco who will have to do worse than 14th, to win the title. We had experienced a similar situation, but with reversed roles, in 2017 when Dovizioso in Valencia had to hope for an unlucky race by Marquez. The pressure is there, as it should be, but I think it's more on Fabio's shoulders as he knows that a 2nd place will not be enough ".
If you had been told before the summer break that you would have arrived at the last race with a 23-point lead, what would you have said?
“You always have to believe in it, but it seemed like a very difficult goal to achieve. Looking at Pecco's results at that moment, there was the possibility of trying the comeback but also knowing that it would be a feat bordering on the impossible ".
How did Bagnaia change in the second half of the season?
"We all know that he is a rider with enormous talent and he knows how to learn from his mistakes, I saw him extremely determined and also capable of settling for 3rd place, as happened at Phillip Island where he could have won. He has also added to his undoubted speed the maturity and coolness necessary to manage the most important situations, as happened at Sepang”.
"Criticism on social media networks? You have to learn not to care"
Has he finally managed to detach himself from the criticism he receives on social media?
“Quartararo has also suffered the pressure, so much so that he took a few weeks off from social media. It can bother a rider a lot that there are detractors whatever he does, but you have to understand that this is today's world and you also need to learn how not to care. If we look at the races he has won, the laps in the lead, all those who speak out on principle, because they prefer other riders or because they see the figure of Valentino in Pecco, they are simply haters, but they can be very bad. If you fail to detach from these unjustified comments, which come from social networks and some media, you risk being hurt. Pecco's numbers are unmistakeable, only those who are incompetent or in bad faith can cast doubts about them and we are not be interested in these people”.
Is there a sort of consequential hatred as there is no longer Rossi?
“You don't need to bother with them, but watch and move on. The numbers shut everyone's mouth, even those who invent conspiracies that don't really make sense ".
"Yamaha also indicates to its riders when they have Quartararo behind, it's legitimate"
Many people are criticizing the real or alleged team games, or rather brand games.
“In my opinion, this subject has been talked about inappropriately: it is right that each manufacturer reminds their riders to avoid making risky manoeuvres among themselves. Moreover, in Australia it was signalled to both Darryn Binder and Crutchlow when Fabio was behind them and that did not strike me as something illegitimate. It is in the logic of motorsport to warn when behind a rider there is someone who is fighting for the World Championship and not just any rival ".
"One order in Valencia ... may a Ducati win!"
However, the controversy lingers on ...
"Let's analyze the facts: Bastianini at Misano tried to win to the very last and at Aragon he succeeded, Miller won in Japan and finished ahead of Pecco in Thailand. If there were any team or brand orders, we would have thought about making Jack slow in Buriram, which also didn't happen because he was fighting for the win. Even at Sepang Enea tried, he got in front and then Pecco passed him again. They seem to me to be controversies that arose very early in the season and that have no objective confirmation. To be completely honest, there was the episode of Zarco in Thailand, when he remained behind Bagnaia. I spoke to Johann and he felt that trying to overtake on a still wet track off the trajectory would be too risky to get third place at the most. It was not a brand order, but simple common sense on the part of a rider who works for Ducati. They all seem to me understandable, reasonable, possibly acceptable situations (he smiles) on which there is no need to build controversy. This year no one has given anything to Pecco, not even the Ducati riders ".
At Valencia, the best team order would be for Bastianini to win.
"That's a comment I made on Sunday: at Valencia we will give the order for a Ducati rider to win. It was clearly a joke; we didn't give orders but we tried to avoid situations like the one in Argentina in 2016. If a rider can safely overtake another, that's okay, if instead he has to make a manoeuvre on the limit with the risk of both crashing, this is not what Ducati expects from its riders. I think all the other manufacturers think the same way”.
"Managing Bagnaia and Bastianini in 2023 will be a problem everyone will envy us for"
Bagnaia can win the title at Valencia, Bastianini can be third in the championship: you will have a dream team next year?
“Enea has only had a bit of a tarnished period after Mugello, that’s OK when he is only in his second year in MotoGP, but now he has shown that he is the rider we thought he was. Let's not forget that we have chosen to promote him to the official team because we think he is a rider who can win the World Championship. We will have the best team on paper in 2023 for the results that both have achieved, it is a dream team, with all the complications of the case. Both are Italian and very fast and neither of them will want to be second to the other, but it's a big problem to solve, I think many rivals would like to have it (laughs) ".