After a week of announcements, those on site – missing Joan Mir as he’s sidelined from Team Suzuki Ecstar duty through injury – sat down to talk about their new adventures ahead and 2023. Johann Zarco and Jorge Martin remain at Prima Pramac Racing, Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez switch Red Bull KTM and Tech3 KTM, respectively, to join forces at Aprilia RNF, and Enea Bastianini heads from glory with Gresini to full factory Ducati Lenovo.
You must be delighted to have the new contract!
“Clearly it was just the time to wait so everything can be confirmed in Ducati. To continue with Pramac is very important to me because it’s the factory bike in Pramac for many years so it’s a chance to have the best material and good work to develop the bike with Ducati. Plus this feeling is going well with Ducati and Campinoti, it’s positive to stay with them. Going to the factory team is always a nice dream but it was more a challenge between the young guys, I’m kind of the old one in the class but still performing pretty well. Staying with Pramac is a good thing because it’s a satellite team and they need some sponsor, and when they have a rider that can perform and stay in the team it’s also positive for the sponsor that are helping Pramac to do the best season possible.”
Was the factory team seat something discussed with Ducati?
“The relationship is always nice with the bosses of Ducati and I’m old enough to joke with them and when they were wondering whether to take a Spanish or Italian guy, I explained that France was right in the middle. They explained me well that they preferred to be more focused on the guys that have sure 10 years in front of them in MotoGP, than me, I don’t say I only have one year but I wont push for 10 years. So that’s why, they were more focussed on the young guys. But on the other side, keep someone performing in the satellite team is pretty important because most of the time the difficult life of a satellite team is building up good guys and then these young boys are going to the factory team, so for the sponsors around it’s a strange, tough period for many people, for the world, and it’s always hard to motivate sponsors for the satellite team when the good riders are going away so if I can stay and keep motivating these partners I’m the first one to be happy.”
Going to the Ducati Lenovo Team must feel like a dream come true:
“Yeah, it’s a dream for me, that next season I am with the Lenovo factory team in Ducati. I’m really motivated about this but I know it will be a really hard challenge because the pressure will be higher next year for me. But, I’m also happy to be the team-mate of Pecco. He’s my friend but also I have ridden from when I was younger in the pocket bikes and we are team-mates for the first time next year. I’m prepared and we will see how it is.”
How did you manage the head-to-head situation with Martin?
“I think for Ducati it was not easy to make this decision because Jorge is also really fast on the race track. For the next races, it’s important for me to do a great job, but not for this situation, but for me. I know my first part of the season was not too consistent and I want to be consistent in the future, to be a title contender.”
What do you hope you can learn from Bagnaia as a team-mate next year?
“I think I can learn a lot from Pecco. He’s really fast but also he manages the weekend very well, the occasion, and I have to learn from him. Also, he can learn something from me, and we will see in the future.”
How you feeling about the decision?
“Yeah well, for sure a little bit disappointed you know after the decision. Not because they chose Enea because he deserves it, he won three races so his level was unbelievable and I think for sure we both deserve it and the decision was difficult. At the end of the day I did everything Ducati told me, I tried my best but anyway, yeah, I signed a really great contract so I am super happy and I guess also Ducati will try and recover the investment with good results, and I will take my chances to make history in Pramac, it’s the only way I can make history and try to win the Championship next year. I just hope in that case if I have the chance and I’m battling with Pecco or Enea next year, that they give me same support so we can fight with the same tools.”
How did you manage the situation, did it bring extra pressure?
“Well I think it wasn’t good for Enea or for me, the war they created. The media or even a lot of people. I just tried to make my good results, I suffered at the beginning of the season a little bit and then from Barcelona I started to be quite consistent, I got a podium there also, so I don’t think it’s good for the riders because it isn’t easy and you can’t perform to your 100%, but it is what it is, we know this sport and we just try our best.”
Did you speak to any other factories or did anyone make an approach before signing?
“At the beginning of the season I felt a lot of confidence from Ducati in me, we were speaking about our future and being in the factory team next year. But then at some point I started to have some crashes and have some difficulties, some injuries, so then they started to lose the confidence a bit and then for sure I listened to other factories, and I was thinking even to move, but I think I still have a lot of things to prove. But yeah I still have a lot of things to prove here in Ducati with the Pramac Racing team so I will stay here for one more season and then we’ll see.”
What was the decisive factor in you choosing to move to Aprilia RNF?
“There were different factors in making the decision. For sure, the timing was one big factor. It was the time that I felt I could have the chance to maybe try another machine, and a very competitive one, so that made me really think and be tempted to accept this offer. Also, I felt a very warm welcome from Massimo. Massimo really maybe added the extra ingredient to convince me, but it’s for sure a great pleasure to be involved for the next two years in a different project, a bike that can already be proved that it can be very consistent through every weekend and every race track.”
Were you surprised by the late GASGAS offer and did it complicate your final decision?
“I mean, for sure, after a seven-year relationship, we don’t want to end things in an abrupt way or without giving a fight, so I think that the late efforts made by KTM to keep me in the family were super-fair. I’m very proud of the relationship we had an built throughout these years. We were always very transparent in these negotiations and giving feedback to them, and from their side also they were very transparent all the time. So, I’m really proud we have built this strong relationship, and the world is round, you never know the next day, so everything will remain in a good way, in a good relationship.”
What have you observed from the Aprilia and how it might suit your riding style?
“It’s very hard to analyse from the outside because every bike looks better than your bike, because you maybe compare it in not a fair moment or in the heat of the race; you just want to go faster and you cannot. But, I think, looking at Viñales really helped me to understand more the potential of the bike. Aleix is normal because he has spent so many years and he knows the bike perfectly, but Viñales coming from his entire career in MotoGP™ with inline engines, that really made it quite interesting when he jumped on the bike, to perform already in a very good level. So, that maybe convinced me more than probably Aleix’s results. So, let’s see how we fit. Of course, every move is based in a little bit of faith and hope that it works out, so of course that investment we will do in the future.”
How excited are you for next year?
“I’m very happy to take the opportunity with Massimo and Razlan, they brought me the opportunity to continue in MotoGP. This season was quite difficult for me, for some reasons we didn’t get the results we wanted but first we need to try and finish the season at my maximum level, try to do my best as always, and when we’re in Valencia I will be really focussed on the next project, it’s really interesting for me. Also to stay with Miguel in the same box and in the same project as Maverick and Aleix, it’s interesting for me and I think I’m the youngest rider in the Aprilia project and it will be really interesting.”
How important was Razlan in your decision and when did discussions begin?
“Honestly I don’t know, I don’t worry too much on that because first we need to close the contract with KTM first and I think he can say better than me. I don’t know, I can just say I’m really excited to go there. I’m really enthusiastic to go to Razlan’s team.”
Have you spoken to Aleix or Maverick about making the final decision?
“Honestly not yet. I’m focussed on trying to finish the season at 100%. But I think like Miguel said, I don’t see Aleix’s results because he has many years of experience with this bike, I see Maverick’s season more. It’s quite interesting how he’s evolved on the bike, the feeling and the results. This is more important. Aleix is doing an amazing year, but I think I see more Maverick how he managed the situation.”