WorldSBK Argentina: Bautista ‘confident but not relaxed’

| | WorldSBK
Picture: GeeBee Images

When you score full points in a race and your rivals scores next to nothing, it is like doubling up your win. After Alvaro Bautista had overcome the initial scare of seeing Toprak Razgatlioglu’s bike slide quickly past him in a shower of scrapes and sparks, the Spaniard lost his lead and had to work his way from fourth to the lead, and then to another assured winner’s circle celebration.

Bautista’s bike is proving to be easily adaptable to various track conditions, and also he seems to have more tyre possibilities than some others. He used the SCX tyre in race one, but could have opted for the SC0.

“Sincerely, yesterday the idea was to use the SCX, but this morning I tried SC0,” Bautista explained on Saturday afternoon. “I did a really good pace on the morning. I thought, SC0 is nice as well but also we changed a little bit the bike from yesterday. This morning I felt much, much better than yesterday, felt more confident. I can ride more like I want. I can ride myself the bike, not the bike rides me.

“Today the feeling was fortunately much, much better than yesterday. At the same time, I was using SC0 tyre, so, the idea was to use SC0, but in superpole with the SCQ tyre with more grip, I had really good feeling but not feeling just for one lap. Just a general feeling with the bike. So I said, maybe SCX, temperature is higher and higher. Maybe could be an option. So at the end, I did the out lap from the box, I did two laps because I put SCX tyre and tried to push in that lap to see how was the feeling. In those laps I felt good, so I just said, ‘let’s play a gamble and see what happens’. It worked really well from the beginning until the end, very stable. So, I can be fast. I can be consistent. Also, the feeling was really good. I’m happy with the choice, because I think made the right decision.” When you win a race at this level, you have usually made the right decision.

Bautista has been the victim of a ‘nerfing’ this year already, in the controversial Magny Cours incident with Rea. He was already tuned into the potential for an immediate re-overtake on him on lap one at turns eight and nine and he felt fortunate not to have been collected by Toprak’s sliding bike.

“I was lucky because sincerely, I expect somebody try to pass me in that corner, so I was a bit prepared for don’t close too much, to let many riders pass,” the number 19 confirmed. “But what I didn’t expect was a bike sliding in the ground. I don’t know if he touched my front tyre or not. I felt something, but I don’t know if it was my moment or his bike. I don’t know if he did a mistake or something, because he is really strong this weekend. I think he wants to be leading the race from the beginning and tried to push because he had a really good pace during all the weekend. I don’t know if he did a mistake or not, or just he wants to stay in front but in the first lap, you have to be very careful, especially after a long, long straight.

“With the front tyre, sometimes it’s not ready to brake like he tried to brake. I was lucky. Just the only word I can say.”

With Bassani the race one leader, then second and only third after a bit of excellence from Rea at the very end, the Ducatis in general seem to work at Villicum, even though it’s a relatively slow circuit, with lots of infield and only one true long straight. For Bautista, why do the Ducatis work so well there? Is it more bike or him as a rider?

“I think it’s the combination,” said Bautista. “I think we saw during all the season that the combination between the bike and me, maybe a track suits better the bike, maybe the track suits better me, but at the end it’s the combination and the work we do. Also with the tyres, it depends the conditions. You can use one tyre or other. Depends how you work with the electronics. It’s a combination. I don’t think that it’s for the bike or if it’s for the rider. It’s the combination.”

Given how pivotal that Toprak crash looked and felt to all at Argentina, Bautista was asked directly if he could - with an 80-point championship lead and eight races still to run, start to think about being World Champion.

“Sincerely, I’m enjoying a lot not to think about the championship,” he admitted. “I like to race. I like to ride the bike. Believe me. It’s not telling you bullshit. I’m just telling the truth. I’m feeling good and I’m thinking just about tomorrow warm-up. No more than tomorrow’s warm-up. If I think in more future, then I can’t feel the present and I cannot enjoy the present. So, I prefer every time I go to the track I try to be focused just in that moment and feel everything to enjoy.

“For me, it doesn’t matter the championship. At the end of the championship, is the result of the work, but we have to work! We have to be focused on the present.”

When asked if a lot of his current strong position is down to looking at how things went wrong in 2019 - when he had a big lead and lost it in spectacular style - then learning from it this year, Bautista said no, not really. “What I feel is that I have a lot of experience in all kinds of circumstances,” he answered. “I think I have learned more from the last two years [at Honda] than almost all my career. Believe me, it’s difficult to explain but the feeling I have riding was like I was crashing every corner. So, the combination bike and me was not working really well. In some tracks we were a bit closer, but now it’s like it’s all coming easy. I try to get the maximum and feel everything good.”

With Super concessions coming in to let the Honda make more significant chassis improvements, if Alvaro had super concession two years ago, maybe he would have a different previous two years?
“Everything happens for something,” he grinned. “Maybe I have to do two years there to use more now. But in any case, you have to do the maximum at the present so, it doesn’t matter now if I think, ‘Maybe two years ago with super concession, I can do this…’ It doesn’t matter because I can’t go to the past. I have to look forward for the future.”

I said that that was an interesting mentality about the last two years, because compared to the last two years, ’19 was the big drama year.

“In 2019 I didn’t have experience with this tyre, the bike. Now everything I know much more,” he acknowledged. “So, it’s different. I told you before the start of the season. Maybe you say, ‘could be true’, but it’s different situation. In the races, everything can happen but now I feel different from three years ago.”

The 80 point cushion Alvaro is now sitting on over his nearest rival must be a particularly comfortable one, but he said he can feel more confident, but he cannot relax, as such, even now.

“For sure, it’s easier when you have a bigger distance [in the points]. It’s easier than when you are two points ahead. With two points, you have to go fast and don’t make mistakes. Now I can be fast… Okay, don’t make mistakes! But if I can go fast, okay. Just the maximum. When you are close in the points, you have to push more. I’m not relaxed. Relaxed is another thing. But more confident.”

Picture: GeeBee Images