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MotoGP, Grassilli: "Marquez? He's cool. It's going to be a loss regardless of who leaves."

"Marc, Bastianini, and Martin are on the list, but you can't make everyone happy. We'll decide by Kazakhstan. Pramac? Yamaha is pressing, but I want to keep it along the VR46."  

MotoGP: Grassilli:

Mauro Grassilli earned hise stripes as Ducati's Sports Director, taking over for Paolo Ciabatti, during a very intense moment. With rider and team renewals at stake for the next few years, he didn't have much time to get used to his new position, and had to quickly hit the ground running. Bagnaia's contract has already been signed, but they still have to decide on his teammate, while fending off attacks from a Yamaha that's on the hunt for a team.

Mauro, how's your new adventure going?
"It would be easy to say everything is going well. But, truthfully, it's not an easy question to answer. What I'm doing is a job that I've always seen done from the office next door. Livio Suppo was my mentor, the one who interviewed me, and, at first, I saw his position as unattainable. Then, over time, I began to think that maybe, one day, I'd get there. But, seeing it from the marketing department, it seemed like an easier job," he said smiling. "I always thought that asking sponsors for money was harder than managing them, but that's not the case. There are human relationships with the riders, the team, the reporters, and it takes time to create them. I'm doing it. Being Sports Director isn't enough to become a person of reference. You have to gain credibility with everything. It's a wonderful phase, of analysis, of study, but I'm still not sure that everything is working as I'd like."

Like the riders, there is no time. It's time for renewals. The one with Bagnaia is already done.
"With Pecco, it already seemed written. Instead, it took some time. We wanted to sign before Qatar, and we succeeded because we pushed a lot. Now we have to figure out who'll be his teammate, and that's not easy, also because those are decisions that will have a major impact on our future."

Those will be the last contracts before the technical changes in 2027.
"The zero point. We don't know what's going to happen yet, so we're trying to have assurances in the last part of this cycle."

Everyone's talking about Mugello as the moment when you'll decide. Is that the deadline?
"No. They like to say that because it's an important race. I spoke with Gigi today and, logically, chosing the other rider is one of the main goals of the next few  months. If we don't do it at Mugello, it'll be in Kazakhstan. I don't think before these two GPs, but not even after the summer break, also as a matter of respect for our riders. Before the vacation, that's for sure."

The names on the list are those of Martin, Marquez, and Bastianini.
"Basically, those are the names. Right now, we have two vacancies. One on the official team and another on the Pramac team. You can't make everyone happy. The priority is the official team, then the rest will come."

Will only the results count in this choice or also the harmony between Bagnaia and his teammate?
"I've seen a locker room as great as that one only a few times, and the goal is to continue with this harmony between the riders. Results are key, but so is the locker room. Now I have a hard time saying which is more important."

You already had to be a bit of a firefigher between Bagnaia and Marquez after  Portimão ...
"On Tuesday, I sent them a simple message saying, 'guys, is everything under control?'. I didn't even refer to the accident," he said laughing. "Clearly, I was interested in the answer, but everything went well. In this, I had a great teacher in Paolo (ed. Ciabatti). He bless and made everything right," he laughed.

Is it that difficult to manage riders?
"I'm can't really say yet. I wasn't born in the paddock, but in the office, and I'm still studying. Riders are different people than the ones I was used to. When I was in the SBK years ago, it was easier, even with Bayliss, Here, the relationship with the rider is friendly, on the one hand, but very professional on the other."

Knowing them more closely, did they surprise you from a personal point of view?
"Without a doubt, mostly because of their level of professionalism, which you don't see from home. They lool like rally young guys having fun. That's partly the case. But there's also an attention to their job that surprised me."

We were talking about the riders market, but there are also renewals in the works for the Pramac and VR46 teams. How far along are you?
"The goal I was given is to keep the current status until 2026, and that's the main option. Yamaha is doing a great job in looking for a satellite team, trying to take one of the two away from us, while I want to keep them all. I also know that managing two satellite teams plus a factory-supported one isn't easy, I don't think it'll have a long-term future. From a technical point of view, it's very difficult, and every company has limitations. So, someone can start looking around for a  treatment that's closer to the official one."

How confident are you that you can keep Pramac and VR46?
"I'm very confident and very positive in keeping this situation until the end of 2026 and a structure like now. So, with Pramac as a factory-supported team with two factory bikes, and VR46 and Gresini as satellite teams. Aldeguer, as per contract, will go to the factory-supported, which right now is Pramac."

In what time frame will the matter be concluded?
"By the beginning of August."

Now let's talk about  sports. What do you think about Bagnaia and Martin's starts of the season?
"Jorge started this championship like he finished last one, and we had no doubts about that. Bagnaia had some difficulties, which came about also because of Martin's great performance. I'm extremely happy with Enea. He's returning to what we all expected. We're just at the beginning. It's difficult to draw conclusions. Pecco also had some difficulties last year, but I wouldn't worry right now."

What about Marquez?
"I've always liked Marc. On the one hand he surprised me. But, on the other hand, I expected it, because he's riding the world-champion bike, has a super professional team, and is a multiple world champion and a cool guy."

Letting him get away wouldn't be a good thing ...
"It applies to all three riders we named earlier, because they all have their own charisma. They're fast. We're happy to have them. But it's going to be a shame regardless of who leaves."

Do you think any of them might decide to stay in a satellite team as well?
"We have no idea yet, because we're focused on the factory team  right now. The rest will follow."


Translated by Leila Myftija

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