Ten minutes with Suzuki MotoGP chief Shinichi Sahara|
Following the news of Davide Brivio’s departure to F1, we asked Team Suzuki Ecstar Project Leader Shinichi Sahara about the plans for 2021 and the way forward:
A new era starts for Suzuki now that Davide has left the team. How did this breaking news impact you?
“It was shocking news. I really appreciate what Davide has done since he joined Suzuki; coming in at the start with the newly-created project and growing it to become a top team. For sure we are affected by it, but I don’t think we are going to lose the way without him, because we always looked at things in the same way and agreed on the direction to take. We also have expert staff to help us manage. I fully trust the team structure we have and the rest of the people who helped build it up.”
How is the feeling within the team after this announcement?
“When Davide told all the team staff, everybody was shocked, of course.
But before long we turned our minds towards the next steps to overcome this situation together. We will be more united than ever because we all love this brand, this team, and we will give 150% to carry on with the new challenges in the best way.”
How could it affect the factory and team ahead of an important 2021 season, where Suzuki and Joan Mir will aim to defend the title?
“In my opinion it should not affect anything from now on. We will be working as we know how, and even more than before now that we’ve won the championship. Our attitude has never changed: we will aim to fight for the title again with our two strong riders, Mir and Rins.”
And how does it affect the riders?
“It will not affect our riders ability to fight for the championship. We are already champions and we have two young, talented, and great riders. They know how to deal with troubles or difficult situations and manage the pressure all the time. I’m not worried at all from this point of view. They are both super professional and ready for the 2021 Championship.”
Will this mean the need to restructure current team departments?
“It is always necessary to fine-tune the team structure to get the maximum performance from each team member as standard procedure, even without Davide’s leaving. But I think everyone is professional enough and has the know-how to go on in the best way possible.”
Suzuki now has two options: Choose someone from outside the team to replace Davide or promote someone who is already within the team in order to maintain the philosophy and familiarity. Which would you say is a better choice at this point?
“I think that we can manage the situation with the people inside Suzuki, and it is the best way for us. We know who we are, how we work, how we interact, and what we need. We won’t look for an external manager right now, we will try to manage by ourselves.”
Talking about the upcoming 2021 season, where has Suzuki pushed the most during winter break?
“Like we have been doing in the past, we are trying to improve all the areas of our bike’s performance without losing good balance. Probably we should aim to have better grid positions without losing any performance for race distance.”
How could the rivalry between Joan and Alex help to make the bike better?
“We must be able to avoid serious mistakes in terms of the direction of development with the various data collected from two different characteristics of riding style at a very high level. They understand themselves the benefit of sharing the data and it helps our development of the bikes to become more competitive for both riders.”
Is the best version of Joan Mir still to be shown?
“Yes, of course. He is still young and he is about to start only his third season with us, so there’s still a big margin to know the bike, the team, and to improve. I guess after winning the championship he has also gained maturity and he knows how to deal with pressure.”
And what about Alex?
“We will see how Rins becomes stronger as well, battling with his teammate. Last year, unfortunately, he was in great shape and then he got injured - so this conditioned his performance a lot throughout the season.”
Will the development freeze go in Suzuki’s favour?
“I’d say no; from the engineering point of view we always have new ideas to make the bike better. But luckily the package of our bike wasn’t bad in 2020, so we will do careful development to the areas that we’re allowed to work on. Anyway, you never know how new regulations will affect things, but I think it is the same situation for all manufacturers. These are the same rules for everyone, so fair play is on the table and we all have to deal with this.”
How is the situation regarding the satellite team that in theory could already be running in 2022?
“We are still investigating what the best way is. During the season maybe we will have some more information.”