How does a rider – who just finished a grueling season to reconfirm himself as champion –have fun? By racing in another championship. Judging by the smile on Alvaro Bautista’s face in Sepang, it works. “My wife is also with me. We left the girls at home with grandma, so she can have a bit of a holiday. But I won’t,” the Spanish rider said jokingly. He didn’t want a wild card in the MotoGP on the Ducati just to show off, but to put himself to the test and, above all, enjoy the weekend.
“I don’t have expectations regarding the results, I just want to have fun.” Alvaro made this clear. “It’s one thing to do a test, where you can find your pace, step by step, however, here we’re on a track that I like but that is also very difficult. So the important thing will be to quickly have good sensations on the bike. I’ll definitely try my best.”
The problem is that Dani Pedrosa has raised the bar in his wild cards this year...
“He put more pressure on me. Everyone tells me: ‘if he did it, you can do it too!’” He laughed. “We’re in a different situation. Dani did a lot of miles on the KTM, and he was fast in Misano, even if he missed racing with other riders. My case is the opposite. I’m used to racing, but I lack experience with this bike, so it’ll be important to find confidence quickly, and then we’ll see. It was nice to see Pedrosa fight for the podium, but I use him as a reference, because it would be too much,” he said laughing.”
There’s also another problem: Bayliss’ victory in Valencia in 2006 as SBK World Champion...
“I always have more pressure,” he laughed. “Those times were very different. There was no single tire. I think it’s almost impossible to repeat what Troy did now. Now, everyone is very close to each other. In a second, you can end up with twenty riders. If you get seven tenths, you’re already far behind. That’s why I don’t want to talk about results.”
Have you prepared enough for this Grand Prix?
“I did three tests in Misano, two for me and one to replace Pirro, because Ducati had some tests to do on the material for next year. I had good sensations on the bike. That’s why I decided to do this wild card.”
How much has the MotoGP changed compared to when you raced in this class?
“Now it’s very different, also because, in my last season in the MotoGP, I was riding on a satellite bike, which was different from the official one. In fact, when I used Lorenzo’s bike in Australia, I felt big differences. My feeling is that the rider now has less control. It depends more on the set-up, the aerodynamics, the electronics than on what the rider can do. The bike counts more. Maybe it’s not good for the riders, but I also understand the manufacturers’ point of view. As a rider, I’m not happy to have all these systems that help you ride. I’d rather be able to make a difference.”
Was it difficult to get used to the MotoGP again?
“Pirelli and Michelin are tires that behave very differently. With the first, you feel the limit more, and you can easily control them. With the second, you have better stability, but they transmit less information. It’s easy to cross the limit without warnings.”
Can uncertain weather be an advantage for you?
“It’s the same for everyone. You have to be ready for all conditions, especially in Sepang. I’ve never ridden in tests when wet so, if it were to rain, I’d prefer it to happen during practice.”
Who’s your crew chief going to be in this GP?
“Marco Palmerini, who leads the Test Team, but Giulio Nava, my crew chief in the SBK, will also be in the garage. Marco knows the bike very well and Giulio knows me, so we’ll try this combination to be able to accelerate the times. We’ll only have Friday to fix the bike. We’ll already be racing on Saturday.”
The Sprint Race. Something new for you.
“It’s quite normal for me, because we have three races every weekend in the SBK.”
Why did you choose Sepang for this wildcard?
“Logically, we could only organize it after the SBK championship was over, so there were three options left. Valencia would’ve been the most convenient, but I want to enjoy this experience, and I didn’t trust to race at the end of November. Sepang is one of my favorite circuits, and I’m not lying. The straights will help me,” he said laughing.
What do you think about the title fight between Bagnaia and Martin?
"Logically, Ducati would prefer the rider in the official team to win but, in the end, it’s such a balanced duel that it’s going to be decided on the track, without helping one or the other. I see that Jorge is strong, mentally and because of the confidence he has in the bike. But, on the other hand, Pecco’s tranquility and serenity of already being a champion weighs heavily. It’s going to be interesting. We’ll see if Martin’s speed and ambition will win or Bagnaia’s tranquility and experience.”