The difference in perspective between team managers and riders is always fascinating. Team bosses always have an eye to the big picture, to the coming year and beyond.
Riders are usually looking no further ahead than the next session or the next race. Anything beyond that is out of their control, and not worth wasting valuable energy worrying about. The future is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.
That difference was all too evident at the Ducati launch in Bologna on Monday.
While the people in charge of Ducati – Paolo Ciabatti, Davide Tardozzi, and Gigi Dall’Igna – were already thinking of managing rider signings and sponsorship deals for 2019 and beyond, Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo were mostly concerned about the Sepang test and about being competitive in the 2018 season.
New contracts for 2019 were on their horizons, but compared to their bosses, it was little more than a blip. First, there is a championship to win.
Andrea Dovizioso has spent the winter relaxing, and preparing for the new season. He starts the year as one of the title favorites, not a position he has been accustomed to.
“A great sensation, and one I had lost in the last few years” is how the Italian described it. He did not feel the pressure of that sensation, but rather saw it as a challenge.
Sure, he was one of the favorites, but there were a lot of competitive bikes with riders capable of winning. “The level of competitiveness has become very high in MotoGP in the last three years,” he said. “There are many riders who can win races. It wasn’t like this in the past.”
MotoGP team launches are always the triumph of hope over experience. Each year, the bosses of every factory in the series tell the media that their objective is to win races and fight for the championship. Sometimes, they even believe it.
At last year’s launch of the Ducati MotoGP team, Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall’Igna said they hoped to be fighting for the championship. That, after all, is why they signed Jorge Lorenzo to what is reported to be a very lucrative contract.
The assembled press was skeptical, despite the clear progress that Ducati had made in the past couple of seasons, its first wins coming in 2016.
Such skepticism was unwarranted, though you get the distinct feeling that even Ducati was surprised at how close Andrea Dovizioso came to clinching the 2017 MotoGP title.
Ducati was delighted by the Italian’s first win at Mugello, amazed at his victory in Barcelona a week later, and impressed by the way he beat Marc Márquez at Austria.
By the end of the season, Ducati had come to expect to win races, and realized just how far they had come on their journey since the dark days of 2013, when they didn’t score a single podium all year.
So on Monday, when Dall’Igna echoed the words of Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali in Bologna, that Ducati’s objective was to win races and challenge for the championship in MotoGP, they were deadly serious.
There is no doubt that Ducati is capable of doing just that – Dovizioso’s results and Lorenzo’s improvement in 2017 demonstrate that – and though they are all too aware of the dangers of complacency, Ducati start the 2018 season with both a firm expectation and belief that they are candidates for the 2018 MotoGP title.
This is almost certainly not the 2018 Ducati Desmosedici GP race bike for next season’s MotoGP Championship, but it does look a lot like it. That is because today Ducati unveiled its 2018 MotoGP team, with its fresh new livery design.
The bikes used in these photos of course are of the 2017 model, complete with its hammerhead front fairing design. We expect the 2018 edition of the Desmosedici GP to have more obvious changes (likely improved aero), though it is hard to tell when Ducati will take the wraps off that race bike officially.
Strong money would be on a Qatar debut, just ahead of the 2018 MotoGP Championship’s season-opener. However, the Italian brand could surprise us at Sepang with some new fairings or mechanical pieces.
One thing is for certain though: Ducati aims to win the championship this next season.
With Andrea Dovizioso finishing as last year’s runner-up, taking the fight all the way to Valencia; and Jorge Lorenzo finally looking comfortable and fast on the Ducati; the Italian brand is looking stronger than ever before (save for maybe the 2007 season, with Casey Stoner on-board).