Sixteen race wins and second in the championship. Not bad for Alvaro Bautista and Ducati in 2019, a rookie season for bike and rider.
Those stats are brilliant in any other year. Usually, the kind of arithmetic that underlines a championship-winning season. But now Bautista is leaving Ducati and heading to another new project, with a full factory Honda.
Bautista was asked to confirm that after all his success, the rider who follows him into Ducati has to win it, to do something better. It will not be easy to replace Bautista…
“It is not my problem, I prefer to be focused on me,” he told bikesportnews.com. “I will be in this championship as well, and first of all he has to beat me. I am joking, but for sure it will not be easy as for next season we will have more competitive riders, more competitive bikes.
“I think this championship will have one ‘before’ and one ‘after’. I think that before this season, it was one thing but now the other manufacturers are pushing more on this championship. This is good. I think next season will be interesting to see what will happen with the new bikes that are coming. Also with the new riders. I do not know when I will be testing the new bike; I do not know the testing plan.”
Bautista is leaving Ducati when it looks like their bike should be better all season in 2020, which leaves Bautista a big opponent to face – the one he has just climbed off of. But he knows the score, it seems…
“At the end Chaz did really well in the last races. Started to go fast and have a good feeling. So I think he can fight for the victories next season.”
Given that Bautista finished 165 points behind Rea in 2019, that is a huge margin for him to make up in 2020, even if the third placed rider Alex Lowes was in his turn 157 points behind Bautista this year. Can Bautista beat Rea in 2020?
“Well, if I did not want to beat him, I would stay at home. If I go racing it is because I want to win.”
Given the start Bautista had, and that he felt he was lifting the level, was he ultimately surprised at all the assets Kawasaki eventually showed they had, in the package and people?
I think my feeling is that especially at the beginning of the season they were more relaxed,” said Bautista. “For me, they reacted really well and they made something in the bike. More or less from Donington, or even a bit before – Misano – all Kawasakis were in front, not only Jonathan. So for me they worked on the bike and they found something that helped all the bikes. Yes, they reacted very well and for sure their experience is their strong point.
“They get the maximum they can at the beginning, their work and the experience with the team, rider and bike is important for the championship. It is ‘easy’ to win a race, but it is very difficult to win a championship. You have to be very consistent and get the maximum every time you go out to the track.”
Bautista mentioned the small window on his bike in an earlier conversation, but would not elaborate much on that, answering the follow up question of the real effect on of the ‘winglets’ on his V4R more fully.
“I think the wings are only positive,” he said. “On this bike I did not try it without wings – well yes, when I crashed and lost one wing - but that is no the best solution. But in MotoGP I felt the wings help a lot. So I think this bike is helped by the wings.”