Crash.net speaks to VR46 team manager Pablo Nieto (between Andrea Migno and Nicolo Bulega in the photo above) about team structure, management and expanding from two to four riders in 2017.

Crash.net:
Hi Pablo. Four riders seems to be a lot to take care of. How do you manage the relationship?

Pablo Nieto:
It's a really hard sport and has so many aspects to it now. It's also very different to when I was racing. Then you were really just involved with the bike but nowadays there are so many other aspects not directly connected with your machine that you have to deal with as well as liaising with the various technical crews and dealing with telemetry. So I try to keep an overall view of things.

I try not to be like a close friend to them but more keep a professional distance. We have to work together but I also have to be able to be strong with them, not necessarily as a teacher but I have to have a certain authority.

Crash.net:
Can you tell me a little about the team structure?

Pablo Nieto:
It's actually quite a big team now and I'm the person taking care of the day-to-day running of it but the bosses of the team are still Valentino [Rossi] and Uccio [Salucci] but we work together well. Valentino and Uccio are the team owners but I take care of operations.

If we have any new ideas or want to do something they will always be kept informed. It's not really that formal though because obviously we are in the pits together so will talk every day and are in constant contact.

At races that would normally mean staying in contact with Uccio because Valentino will obviously be fully occupied with his own racing. Any important things we'll wait until the racing is finished and discuss them with him and also Alberto Tebaldi who also has an executive roll in the team

Crash.net:
When I have heard you interviewed before you always seem to take things from a rider's point of view rather than a managerial one...

Pablo Nieto:
You've got to remember that I was also a rider and take that perspective with me. I feel that helps me to know what the riders need to succeed. I was racing until 2009 and still feel that I have some helpful operational ideas.

But my roll definitely doesn't go into that of a crew chief. I just think my history gives me a useful perspective. My side of things is more to do with the overall strategy of the team and it is that that takes up all my time and I would do 100% of it.

I have some technical input but the final decision regarding that side of things comes from the technical director Pietro Caprara.

Crash.net:
Do you think it's an advantage for a racing team manager to be an ex racer or could someone from more 'normal' management be as good?

Pablo Nieto:
I'm not sure, in MotoGP there are a lot of managers who weren't professional riders but at the same time there are plenty who were. I think that isn't the most important thing, I think it depends more on their character. Not all ex riders would make a good team manager so yes, it's the qualities of the person which are most important.

I feel very comfortable in that role and feel that I can do it well, it came quite naturally to me. I didn't feel scared of the role even from 2009 when I started managing a Ducati team with Sete Gibernau.

Crash.net:
Did you find the change from rider to manager hard to adjust to?

Pablo Nieto:
No, I can't say I did but I would say that it is more work. Managing in MotoGP is a very complex and full role but if you have a good working system and your own ideas and motivations then I think you can do it

Crash.net:
What do you find more satisfying, success as a rider or success as a manager?

Pablo Nieto:
Honestly I have to say that it's better when you're a rider. It's more immediate. You do have a lot of exciting and satisfying moments as a manager but it can also come from making good decisions and controlling a situation. It's still a lovely feeling when you win a race though, that doesn't go away. It's just that now I have a better understanding of the sheer number of things that go on in the background to get that win. When you're a rider you feel that it is all you and have less appreciation of the 30 people that got you there.

I think that as a manager you also have more worries and concerns, you have to make sure that all the people working with you are working together and that they feel happy. As a rider you just consider the motorbike and your riding so that 's a big change for me - a bigger perspective.

Crash.net:
There is great rivalry between Italy and Spain in motorcycle racing and you come from a very illustrious Spanish racing family - do Spanish fans ever feel that you are 'working for the enemy'?

Pablo Nieto:
Honestly, yes some people in Spain do feel like that, the passion is very high. I don't mind though because I'm probably working in the best family there is in racing, SKY Racing Team VR46, and I genuinely feel part of the family here. I love being here. If someone thinks that I'm with the enemy then that's their problem, I'm just happy to be here.

In Spain my family is well known and in a way I try to make a family atmosphere in this team the way my father taught me when I was young. I've been in the world championship for 19 years now so I have a lot of experience and can use that here.

I would have to say that I'm very grateful to my father (Angel) and cousin (Fonsi) because it's thanks to them that I am where I am now. I'm also learning a lot here at VR46 so I think I can say that I've got the best teachers that you can possibly have; Angel Nieto and Valentino Rossi.

Crash.net:
SKY Racing Team VR46 seems to be a project set up to compete with the Spanish/Catalan system, is it possible for you to employ non Italian riders?

Pablo Nieto:
At the moment the project is purely geared to finding young Italian riders to try to get a championship with one of them. We have to concentrate on that because 5 or 6 years ago there were really only Spanish riders coming through. We're trying to redress the balance.

Valentino is of course also occupied with his VR46 Riders Academy which is working really well and we can say that we've now got 11 riders in the world championship and that we're on the way to making Italian riders into a force as strong as they were in the past.

Crash.net:
How are riders chosen, who makes the decision?

Pablo Nieto:
In a way the whole of VR46 is involved in choosing the riders, but it's mainly Valentino, Uccio, Albi [Alberto Tebaldi], myself and all the people working in the academy.

Crash.net:
...and where do you look for prospective riders?

Pablo Nieto:
For Moto3 we mainly look in the Spanish championships and Uccio is heavily involved in that, Uccio, me and Albi. We watch a lot of young riders in the Italian championships but the Spanish ones are important.

Crash.net:
So Uccio is like the team talent scout?

Pablo Nieto:
Oh, he watches a lot of junior racing and has a lot of experience in the paddock.

Crash.net:
...and what language is spoken in the garage?

Pablo Nieto:
It's always Italian, I speak Italian too.

Crash.net:
VR46 is probably the most well known team in Moto2 and to a certain extent you are involved in a national Italian project - does that give rise to excessive pressure, particularly at the Italian rounds?

Pablo Nieto:
Honestly, I like to have that kind of pressure. If you don't have pressure in this world you wouldn't get things done. That kind of pressure is important to motivate us to do the things that need doing.

I can feel that but for me it is important that the team and riders also feel it because if you don't have that motivation then probably nobody cares enough about what they are doing and that's not good. I think it is the same for many teams in MotoGP.

It's a positive excitement rather than a negative. Having that feeling comes about from having a lot of people watching us, following us and supporting us, it is a measure of success.

Crash.net:
Both MarcVDS and KTM run teams in all 3 classes so that riders can be fed up through the levels. You now run in Moto3 and Moto2, are there plans for a MotoGP team?

Pablo Nieto:
At the moment no. At the moment we have to make a success of our current projects, there are no plans for MotoGP. You've got to remember that Valentino is still racing in MotoGP and has a 2-year contract with Yamaha so it's a little early to consider a move there.

Crash.net:
Coming back to the progression between the classes. I notice that many champions from Moto3 have big problems when they reach Moto2 and Moto2 is criticized for not having electronics to prepare a rider for MotoGP. Do you think the 3 classes at the moment offer a good progression?

Pablo Nieto:
I feel that at the moment it is probably the best progression available. It's true that there is a high electronic element to MotoGP but the level of the Moto2 riders is incredible and seem to be getting on there fine. Maverick for example was winning in his second year in MotoGP for Suzuki. I think that it is the level of riders that the class attracts which is important and at the moment that is really strong.

Crash.net:
Sam Lowes for example mentioned WSS as being a useful feeder series because of the more extensive use of electronics?

Pablo Nieto:
Yes, it is more open than Moto2 but again it's to do with the level of the riders who take part and I feel that the best ones are to be found in the MotoGP paddock. You have some really strong riders in the Superbike paddock but if you ask them where they want to be they will probably say MotoGP.

Crash.net:
How about the level of the bikes themselves?

Pablo Nieto:
They're very different bikes and sure the Moto2 series has a standard Honda engine and you can make more adjustments to the engine in WSS but for me the big difference is in the chassis. It's in the pure racing chassis and swingarm which allow so much adjustment and customization. In 600's for me it's more important to understand the chassis than the engine and Moto2 teaches you more about the set up of the bike. In fact in Moto2 with everybody having the same engine it means that you have to concentrate more on the fine set up of the bike.

Crash.net:
So you don't agree with the idea of implementing some electronic adjustment in Moto2?

Pablo Nieto:
For me I would say why not? - it's all racing. But at the moment I would say that Dorna have got it more or less right and the most important thing is how the rider is working the bike. Of course more electronics would help with when they step up to the main class but it's not such a big step, it's not something to worry about. You just need to look at [Johann] Zarco or Maverick to see that it isn't an impossible step at the moment.

Crash.net:
I've noticed that many Moto3 champions such as Sandro Cortese, Julian Simon, Alex Marquez and Danny Kent seem to get a bit lost when they get to Moto2...

Pablo Nieto:
Again I don't think it is a systematic thing, I think it depends on the rider. Different riders learn and adapt at different speeds. Zarco for example has adapted immediately but another rider like Tito Rabat can take a lot of time. Tito was a champion in Moto2 but is now taking time to learn MotoGP, in the end it's not the bikes or progression it's the rider.

Crash.net:
Thanks for that Pablo and good luck in the race.

Pablo Nieto:
Thanks a lot

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment