MotoGP: Dovi – undaunted or unappreciated?
Once again Andrea Dovizioso showed that his mentality and his ability to grind out results is what makes him special. The Italian now has his chance to finally win the premier class title but will he ever be truly respected by Ducati?
When people think of Andrea Dovizioso what is the first thing that comes to mind? Thrilling last lap battles with Marc Marquez or being cast in the role of a nearly man? Whether it was at Repsol Honda, when he was teamed with Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner, or at Ducati the 34 year old was always an enigma to management.
Seen as a good but not great rider he was rarely respected as much as his results warranted. A former 125GP champion, front running 250GP rider and a rider that adapted well to MotoGP as a rookie he never quite was looked on in the same light as his peers. The respect you’re shown is reflected in the wages lodged each quarter. Dovi’s cheque always seemed lighter than his results warranted.
For three years he has been the man that’s taken the fight to Marquez but come up short. For three months he’s seen his contract squabble turn into headline news. There’s no shame in being beaten by the greatest rider of all-time but the tension that it generates has made for a difficult working environment. When you add to the mix that he came to Jerez nursing a fractured collarbone and you had a weekend where it was always likely to be difficult.
What did Dovi do? He got the job done, as usual. He was the leading Ducati home and finished on the podium. Getting the most from a tough situation he can live to fight another day. During Wednesday’s test he struggled with mid-corner grip as a result of the new for 2020 Michelin tyres. The issues persisted until he lined up on the grid but, somehow, he once again assessed the issues and found a way to get a good result.
With Marquez likely to miss a number of rounds due to his fractured arm this is Dovizioso’s best chance to win the title. He needs to make it count. Jerez showed that he’s once again bringing the right attitude to the table.
During the shake down test on Wednesday it was clear that it was going to be a struggle for the Italian squad. The bike was difficult and the riders couldn’t attack the corner like they wanted.
“The track temperature is unbelievable,” explained Dovizioso after the test. “It’s impossible for the tyres and my feeling with the new rear tyre isn’t so good. That’s what we’re focusing on. We aren’t using the potential of the tyres. This tyre is very important for unlocking this season so we have to find a way as soon as possible.”
The issue for Dovizoso is that with the Ducati he has a bike that is very strong at the braking point and on the corner exit. Traditionally the Ducati has struggled to turn and while this improved in recent year the improvement hasn’t been enough to remove the issue. The riders try and spin the bike through corners, Jack Miller seems less affected by this due to his riding style, but for Dovizioso it was clear that the issue is persisting.
On Friday, when he was tenth fastest in the afternoon, he said:
“I’m happy because we did a step from Wednesday. We are trying to manage the rear tyre but it’s so difficult to manage the entry of the corner, mid-corner, exit. We are struggling a bit at the moment but I’m really happy about the improvement we made from Wednesday. I still think there’s more work to do.
“The tyre has a lot of grip but it’s very difficult to make the slide compared to the previous tyre. We are struggling because we need some slide on entry to brake in the way need to with our bike. We are working on the entry.”
Qualifying wasn’t a disaster but it certainly didn’t set the world alight either with a third row spot and afterwards, with Miller and Pecco Baggnia in front of him, the alarm bells could be heard from Ducati. The rider though was quietly working through his programme and getting ready for the 25 lap race.
“Our feeling in qualifying wasn’t that good but the pace for the race is quite good. I feel that we’re very similar to the fastest but there’s too many riders with the same pace. We’re still trying to understand the tyres but in the middle of the corner I’m riding differently to last year. I don’t have the confidence to do what I have to do and I have to change a little bit my riding style and we have to have to change the base a little bit on the bike. I’m still not happy but our pace isn’t bad and we have to be confident and make a small step.”
As ever for Dovi the improvements came on Sunday. In the warm-up he was still down the timesheets but once the lights went out he came alive and found a way to get towards the front with his pace remaining constant. Despite Miller having an edge on him all weekend Dovizioso was able to beat him to the flag with the Australian fading in the second half of the race due to a numbness in his throttle taking away his feeling.
As it was Dovizioso was able to once again show why he’s been Ducati’s top dog for the last number of years. Whether teamed with Andrea Ianoone, Jorge Lorenzo or Danilo Petrucci he’s found a way to come out on top. Sunday showed again his adaptability and his ability to grind out a result on a difficult day. In this shortened season that skill could become crucial.
Fresh off the podium the relief was clear for Dovizioso.
“This third place is like a victory because I didn’t really have the speed. I couldn’t really fight with them because I was slower, but I didn’t give up in a difficult moment because I couldn’t keep that intensity. I didn’t make a mistake. That was the key. We have to improve the speed because Marc was faster than everybody and so were these two [Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales]. We have to improve. I think it’s good to have another race because you have a lot of feedback in the race to understand the electronics and the way you have to manage the tyres.”
After months of speculation about his future this was a rubber stamped statement to Ducati management about what he offers; a relentless attitude to turn things around and make it work. At no point all week was Dovizioso any near the top five of the time sheets. He looked to be struggling. He looked to be all at sea. He ended the weekend looking down from the podium.