MotoGP mid-season report: ‘We don’t like team orders’ - Ciabatti| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
While the pre-season favourite may not quite be challenging for the MotoGP title as yet in 2022, Ducati have certainly flexed its muscle in the first half of the year.
Three of the top five are on Bologna machinery with Johann Zarco leading Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini - albeit the latter on the GP21. The Frenchman is the only of the trio yet to stand on the top step but his consistency places him eight and nine points respectively ahead of his Italian rivals and just 37 off the, so far successfully, defending champion Fabio Quartararo.
Ducati’s Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti is aware that while Bagnaia and Bastianini hold three wins each, reliability is key to a title run. Something the Borgo Panigale outfit is long overdue.
“I think consistency is what matters today,” Ciabatti said when reflecting on the first ten races. “If you look at the standings, and if you look at Fabio and Aleix [Espargaro], they score points in every single Grand Prix, they are among a few without any zeroes, and they are doing an amazing job. For us, obviously on one side as a manufacturer, we are happy with the results.
“We have won five races out of ten. We have been on pole seven times out of ten races, there is always a Ducati on the first row, always a Ducati on the podium, and we’re leading the manufacturers’ championship.
“But obviously, we are behind in the riders’ standings, especially with Pecco and Jack [Miller], and this is heavy, because obviously the zeroes that especially Pecco had recently – one was not his fault, but still is a zero – are affecting his chances to fight for the championship, which is always our goal, and it looks like a difficult challenge now on for the season.
“It is still possible, obviously, because there are still ten races, or nine races, and we can score many points, but realistically, it’s going to be very difficult,” he continued on the task of beating the reigning champion. “As you can see, Fabio and also Aleix are consistently on the top and make very few mistakes, so we just have to do our best, as you can imagine, trying to win where we can.
“We were very pleased in a way to see many Ducatis competitive at the Sachsenring, which traditionally has never been a very favourable track for us, but obviously then there was a mistake. We had two bikes on the podium, but obviously Pecco was supposed to be challenging Fabio for the race win, because of his form, because of his pole position, but crashed. So, we can’t be completely happy, but we have to try our best until the end. It’s the only thing we can do.
“Our strategy changed from when we decided to change from Dovi and Danilo and move Pecco and Jack to the factory team and then look for young promising riders and actually I think we’ve been successful to find very fast riders.
“So you might maybe argue that we have too many fast riders on our bikes and that could be a problem.
“I think for Ducati to have fast riders on our bikes is helping us also to keep developing the bike in the right direction but for sure, these riders were extremely fast, they must also do the last step which is to be consistent. I think the key to be able to challenge for a championship is consistency.
“We see Zarco never winning, so far, a race on a Ducati, is in third position because it’s very consistent so he’s also accepting fifth or sixth or seventh position when it’s needed. And we have other riders like Pecco, Enea and sometimes also Jorge who are extremely fast, but then they have zeros and the zeros in this championship are not really helping you to be a challenger for the championship. But as we never give up so we’ll try our best but we need to be more consistent.”
With Jack Miller bound for KTM next season and Alex Marquez set for Gresini, the main question mark lies over who will partner Bagnaia in factory colours. Zarco is assured to stay with Pramac and will have either current partner Jorge Martin or Bastianini alongside.
“We have said that we will decide at the end of August who will be the teammate of Pecco at the factory team,” Ciabatti confirmed. “The other rider, either of Enea or Jorge, will be in the Pramac team with Johann Zarco. We are discussing the final details of his renewal and they will have 2023 bikes, so, equal treatment in terms of technical package.
“Enea and Jorge know they’re gonna be factory Ducati riders next year. So they have the contract for next year. They have a factory technical package and they have also a factory salary, regardless of the team they will be racing for. So under that respect, I think when a rider knows that he is paid as a factory rider, he got the factory material, I don’t think that knowing whether he is going to be in Ducati Lenovo team or Pramac should have any influence on him because, as I said, his future is already decided. I think maybe if a rider is not sure yet about if he has a contract or not, for next year, this could put him on an extra pressure but in the case of Jorge and Enea I don’t think this is a case, at least this is my opinion.”
With nine races left to run of 2022, and three Ducati’s now closing in on the leader - after Quartararo’s DNF at Assen - will team orders play their part as the season draws to a close?
“At the moment, there are still races to go but it looks like we are a bit far away from the possibility to challenge for the championship,” Ciabatti acknowledged. “As I said we will try but in principle with few exceptions in the past, we don’t like team orders.
“Obviously if it is the last race and one rider has no chance to win and the other rider has a chance to win, you might think about the strategy but this is an exceptional case. Now we’re not in that situation. We will not give team orders.
“The only indication we give to our riders is to avoid making extreme passes on each other, we already still remember the experience of Dovizioso and Iannone in Argentina many years ago and we would like to avoid a similar situation but this is the only thing we tell our riders. Is ‘respect your, not teammate but the riders on the same brand a little bit more’, like do not try any extreme manoeuvres if possible, but for the rest they are free to do what they want and if they can win a race they should win a race.”