Andrea, you said you were taking a year off, but that you wanted to keep running: here you are.
“At the end of 2020, I wasn’t worried about my future in my head, because I had clear ideas about what I wanted to do. It happened, if it hadn’t happened I would never have returned to MotoGP. I was fine at home, but now I’m here. It’s not the best to start without testing, after eight years with another bike. I take these five races as preparation for next season ”.
Why didn’t you accept the Aprilia offer?
“I was very happy to be able to carry out tests with Aprilia, it was positive for both of us: I had the opportunity to ride a MotoGP and I was able to give some indications to Aprilia, in a very pleasant and serene climate. But I knew what I wanted, something impossible at the start of the season, but which has now become possible “
Are you surprised by what happened between Vinales and Yamaha?
“Everyone was surprised, but no one knows in detail what happened. You certainly don’t expect a contract to be broken during the season: like everyone else, I was surprised ”.
What are the expectations?
“I can’t know how competitive my bike is for the next five races, but I’m not worried about that, I don’t have to fight for the championship or for some result. Our goal was to have an official M1 for 2022 with direct support from Yamaha and we have achieved it. It will certainly be a bike to ride in a very different way from the previous one: it will take time to find the right position on the saddle, then when we have found it we can start pushing. MotoGP is very complicated now, everyone is very close, but for the moment I’m not worried about that ”.
Do you think you find a very different MotoGP than the one you left?
“I don’t have a clear answer, I want to understand when I’ll be on the track and ride the bike. MotoGP has changed a lot since 2020, especially for the rear tire, but I don’t know how much it affects this year. And a new generation of riders has arrived, the young people start immediately with great speed, with a different riding style: they brake the bike less, they make it race more, I don’t know if it’s something that comes from Moto2. But I’m not sure how much the bike affects all of this: in 2020 I struggled so much from the first test to the last race to find a way to be fast on the tires. But this bike is very different ”.
Have you talked to Cal Crutchlow?
“We all know Cal, I talked to him for an hour at Aragon, but it’s hard to do it with him, to really understand the details of a bike. He explained to me the differences between the M1 2019 and 2021: right now it’s not my main problem, my change is bigger than that of the bike. Theoretically the engine is slower, this will not be easy, but above all the dimensions are very different, it will be necessary to work a little before finding the right position ”.
Have you ever had doubts about returning?
“Yes, because I felt good at home, I could dedicate myself to my passion, I was much more relaxed: my girlfriend (Alessandra, NDA) told me clearly. At first when the door opened I thought about what to do, but I couldn’t say no. At the end of 2012, my dream was to go to a factory Yamaha team, but it wasn’t possible. Making it now is great for me: as a pilot you have your own idea, it was something I wanted to do. The risks of failing are higher than the chances of succeeding, but I wanted to do it, I wanted to test myself with another bike. I take the risk, even if the situation in Yamaha is very strange: there is a rider who makes a big difference, while the others struggle “
Is the goal to beat Valentino?
“I can’t think only of Valentino, they are all very fast, the position at the moment is not the main problem: you have to try to have a good feeling, understand the bike well and improve it every session”.
How does it feel to be in a satellite team with Rossi by your side?
“Being his teammate is something special, not only because he has won so many titles, but because as everyone knows he is a special person, not just a champion. He is charismatic: I’m happy to be his teammate. It’s not the best time for both of us, I’m starting from scratch, I don’t think we can fight for the victory… It’s strange, but very special. Valentino is Valentino, we have always crossed paths, unfortunately he and I have never played a championship, because the years he won I was third or fourth, when I was fighting for it, he was finishing third or fourth. Sin. Unfortunately in these five races we are not playing for something important, he is enjoying the last few races “
Are you expecting a very different bike from the one you rode in 2012?
“I don’t know, but I think the Japanese approach is different from that of the Europeans, they don’t change their bikes that much. But I can’t know ”.
Will you have Forcada by your side also in 2022?
“This year’s team will be the same as in 2022: everyone speaks very highly of Ramon, he is one who has won world championships, he has a lot of experience with this bike. For me it is a perfect situation ”.
Let’s go back to Aprilia, which has courted you for a long time …
“I had decided not to race in 2021, so I went home. Massimo Rivola is a great person, he put a lot of pressure on me to try the bike: he succeeded and it was a good idea. My manager (Simone Battistella, NDA) also pushed and it was positive for both of us. But I immediately said that I didn’t want to race with Aprilia in MotoGP, it wasn’t the solution I wanted. The Aprilia is very competitive, when I tried it I told the technicians that the base is very good and that by working on the details it was possible to make the podium and win. Aleix is going very fast, but I wanted something else ”.
What surprised you the most in this championship?
“I didn’t expect so much from Quatararo: in 2020 he struggled, instead he took a crazy step forward. Despite losing a lot on the straight, he managed to win races on his own, overtaking his opponents and walking away. I didn’t expect it like that. Martin surprised me too: we all knew about his speed, but being so effective right away and coming back so strong after the crash in Portimao is something important. Instead, I expected more from the two Suzuki riders, but I don’t know what the real situation is ”.
Can you make an emotional comparison of your MotoGP debut with Honda in 2008 and this new debut?
“The difference is big: when you are young you dream a lot, you believe you can win 20 titles. It is different, but as always there are positive aspects to being old. Fortunately I have achieved good results in my career, especially in the last 4 years, now the approach is a bit different ”.
You fought a lot with Marquez, what do you think of him?
“It is difficult to analyze Marc and the Honda situation from the outside: my impression is that he is in really bad shape physically. Honda is not in a good situation at the moment: Marc shows that it is possible to fight for the victory, but what he is doing is something crazy ”.
More difficult, or if you prefer easier, your challenge or that of Vinales?
“The change can be similar, but it makes too much difference to do a test before the race: theoretically he can do better here. Then we see in the last few races. Maverick is very particular, he is one of the strongest in MotoGP, in terms of potential he is scary, but the right conditions must be created “
How much and what did you miss about MotoGP?
“It’s my world, I’ve lived there for 20 years, it’s a special world, I just have to say thank you for being here. But when you end the year badly, as it happened to me in 2022, everything is affected. I didn’t miss a race, I watched everything, because I really like technique, sport: maybe I didn’t follow live, but I watched everything. Let’s say that I missed MotoGP up to a certain point. I miss the adrenaline and being in front., But what I did gave me a lot of adrenaline ”.
What do you think of Bagnaia, do you see yourself a little in him?
“Pecco drove a spectacular race on Sunday: he made the pace, he worked well, he rode like God, he took an exaggerated pace, he was really good. The trump card was to remain calm at the end: Marquez didn’t have any to play with, he was working miracles. Pecco was very good, he used his head, nothing had to be invented. He had a crazy braking, he put Marc in crisis. Yes, I see myself a little in him ”.
Did you also come back to try to conquer the 2022 title?
“We are here for this, not for anything else. This does not mean that I will be playing the title 100% next year, but this door has opened and we have taken it. I’ve never run, and never will, just to be there. I don’t enjoy it, I didn’t enjoy it when I didn’t play it. So the goal must be that ”.