Luca Marini is never banal in his answers. He reflects after a question and says what he thinks. The winter break has done him good, he seems more aware of his possibilities and he doesn't hide it at the presentation of the VR46 team. In addition, he was fast in the tests: 1st at Valencia, 1st at Sepang.
“We'll also try at Portimao... but unfortunately the tests don't count for anything - he smiles - It's nice to have good feelings on the bike, have fun, work well, so the season is starting in the best way. I can't wait to lap at Portimao too because it's a completely different track from Valencia and Sepang and, if I manage to be in the top 5 there too, I'd be really satisfied."
Is having the 2022 bike an advantage or a disadvantage?
“In my opinion it's always a disadvantage, but it allows you to have more time to work on yourself, on the small details. I remember last year's test in Malaysia was completely different, we were always in a rush and everything was more difficult, especially for us who didn't know much about Ducati. We ended up with a factory bike and it was tiring for everyone, even the mechanics. This year there was a more relaxed atmosphere in the garage and this too helps us riders to perform at our best. At the beginning we will be competitive, I don't think the GP23 is too different from my bike right now, but then during the season they will always have some updates that will make the difference".
Do you now have the engine you used last year or the one of the factory team?
(laughs) “I don't want to know anything and I just give my best. When you know too many things, they condition you while on the MotoGP of today you don't have to think while riding. You have to prepare everything in the best possible way beforehand, but on the bike you have to be calm, let the team make the decisions".
Let's look at it this way: do you like last year's engine better or the one from the tests?
“This year I feel better (laughs)”.
This winter you trained with the world champion, what does it feel like?
“It's been fun, it's been an inspiring winter. In my opinion, we 4 Academy MotoGP riders have grown a lot. The competition between us has increased because we are all ready to fight for the podium and it's a great stimulus”.
Has the Sprint Race changed your training?
“I tried to train on overtaking, especially at the Ranch battling with the other riders. Reading what Petrucci said it seems to me that the Sprint Race is a disaster and in MotoGP I think it will be even worse (laughs). The problem will be that it will also allow the riders who won't be competitive on Sunday to be competitive, because you can race with a softer tyre without problems with wear. Qualifying will become 75% of a weekend."
You're talking about overtaking, it's increasingly difficult to overtake in MotoGP.
“I'm one of those who already started last year saying that it's getting more and more difficult, not only because of the wings, but also because of the tyres that get hot when you're in the draft, when you're behind a Honda it feels like in an oven and the engine also suffers, lowering and electronics also affect. It's all more complicated but, as long as the regulation is like this, we'll have to invent a way to overtake. We'll be heading towards a more complicated MotoGP where we'll have to risk a lot to overtake."
You’re still missing a podium, do you think that getting there will make you have that famous 'click' that will make everything easier?
“I don't think so, it's never been like this for me. When I won my first Moto2 race, I had already made the 'click'. Victory will come when the time is right and I don't think it's far away. Over the winter I have grown a lot, especially on a personal level. I've improved more in the past 3 months than in all of last year, so I'm coming to the championship with a good mentality."
So you did that 'click' in the winter?
“I feel very good, but the tests are different from the races. I feel ready and well. I had so much free time and I got to think back to everything last year. Now I get on well with my whole team, I met them in the winter and it helped us to give us the energy. I am so close to my dreams and when you have time to think about where you are now, you realize that you must be proud of your work. I'm lucky to be a MotoGP rider in such a good team and with such a good bike, there are few of us in the world who are able to experience such emotions".
Everyone keeps talking about Yamaha's interest in the VR46 team, do you feel more connected to the team or to the brand?
“Yamaha needs another team, it's their big problem, with only 2 bikes everything is more complicated. In my opinion, riders don't feel tied to a team or a brand. In the end, ours is an individual sport and a rider works with others but thinks about himself. For example, Valentino's decision to change bikes so many times is one of the things that made him the greatest in history. You are not an employee, you are yourself and you work with others”.
Your contract is about to expire, does that mean you'll look around?
“I don't know which other riders are in my condition. Morbidelli and some KTM riders? I'm fine where I am, I wouldn't want to embark on strange adventures (laughs). A rider wants to have fun and win, also because it's the only way to have a long career. There are many sacrifices to be made and if something doesn't come back to you… Also because nothing is earned anymore, no one rides around to finish 14th anymore to bring home a salary. Maybe I should have been a footballer (laughs). Seriously, motorcycles are what give me the most emotions and that's what I'm looking for".