On the Thursday that preceded the Spanish Grand Prix, Daniele Romagnoli, crew chief of Danilo Petrucci, sat down with Crash.net to discuss several certain issues involving Ducati.

For 2017 Petrucci has a full factory GP17 at his disposal, which in theory, is the same model used by factory men Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso. Romagnoli offers insight into what Petrucci's role is within Ducati, how much the loss of aerodynamic winglets is affecting their new bike and, having moved from a Yamaha to Ducati in the past, the differences in working for both manufacturers.

Crash.net:
How would you assess 2017 to date?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Honestly speaking, we are below our expectations. We didn't think we'd suffer so much at the beginning of the season, especially at tracks like Qatar and Austin. But it's hard. We improved the bike from last year. The rear grip is slightly better. Handling is a little better. But the thing is it looks like our competitors made a bigger step than us. In some points we did a good improvement, especially engine-wise, and the electronics, I'm very happy. The bike is very good in these points. But still, as I think everyone knows, we have a lack of confidence with the front. We can't have a high corner speed entering the corner. When we start to release the brakes, and when we get on the gas, the bike doesn't turn well in this area.

Crash.net:
Why is that?

Daniele Romagnoli:
The thing is, any rider is on this bike, the Desmosedici, it doesn't matter if it's Lorenzo, Dovizioso, Petrucci or Scott. Anyone. The comments are really similar. Mainly, all the riders want to be focussed on the setting and the performance in the same area. They need more corner speed. For example, at this stage I think Dovi is the one achieving the best results with this bike because he knows this bike for a long time, very well, how to ride this bike. This bike needs to be ridden differently than other manufacturers. I think at this stage it's an advantage compared to Lorenzo. Lorenzo is used to really round riding [lines]. But the Ducati, you must be much more sharp in the corners.

Crash.net:
Over preseason did you ever work on a GP16?

Daniele Romagnoli:
No, never. Petrucci never used the '16. It was straight to the '17.

Crash.net:
From what you understand, is the '17 bike mostly an evolution of the '16?

Daniele Romagnoli:
I think it's a little improvement, the '17. But you know, the thing is all manufacturers, always, when they find a good base they do year-by-year a little improvement. I think we have done something better than the GP16. Like I said earlier, not a big step, but a little step better. if you are already a winning machine then you do a little step better. Then you feel more. I want to say, Ducati has done a very good job improving this machine. But we need to concentrate in other areas more than, for example, where we are already good. Especially, we need to focus about the turning.

Crash.net:
At Valencia last year, Gigi Dall'Igna told us that the turning is the area Ducati needs to improve over the winter. Dovizioso has been saying this for some time now. Is it a surprise that it's still such an issue?

Daniele Romagnoli:
I think we are more or less always there. Going back a little, the thing where we lost some advantage was with the winglets. Without the winglets we lost so much about the turning capability of the bike. This is one of the points that we struggle. We expected to build a new fairing, doing some downforce, which would give some downforce. What we have done so far is still not good enough. We are working on that. We are thinking for the near future to introduce a new fairing, but not yet. Because we are not ready with this fairing, it's a point that we are losing something compared to other machines, which can already turn better without the winglets. So, yes, we are concentrating on making the bike better in turning but the thing is sometimes it is a combination with the tyres. Sometimes our bike was very good last year, when we tested in Jerez let's say two years ago [at the end of 2015], it was very good with the tyres at the time. But then, for some problems as we know, the tyres have been changed [after Argentina '16]. Then it has been changed from one race to the next, we suffer and this combination doesn't match so much. We had to work a lot to improve the machine in this area. So sometimes other bikes are matched much better to the tyres. In our case, it was not that. We have to work on something to make it better. It's difficult.

Crash.net:
Can you explain a little how the winglets did influence turning?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Basically because you have more load on the front. The more you squeeze the front tyre on the round, the more grip you have and the higher corner speed you can achieve. Mainly it is this. But also the winglets work with the anti-wheelie effect. They make the bike stronger in acceleration. There was less front lift. In this area for example, when you change a bit the geometry, the weight balance, we have some good compromise. I don't think it's that area where we are losing. Still, it's more about the loading the front without the front brake and then going on the gas. The front can slide, goes lighter and the bike doesn't turn. It goes straight and doesn't make a good corner. We have to reduce a lot the speed to make a good turn. But this loses time.

Crash.net:
Do you have any idea when this new fairing will be available to use during a race weekend?

Daniele Romagnoli:
For sure, it will be in the near future but at this stage I can't say so much.

Crash.net:
Danilo is running the third GP17 on the grid. Is your bike identical to what Lorenzo and Dovizioso are using?

Daniele Romagnoli:
With Petrucci at the beginning of this project with Ducati in the satellite team and the factory bike did some development. The development that we are testing with Danilo will be transferred to other riders. Yes, our machine is slightly different. I can say a little about the engine and the electronics. It's more where we are doing some tests. In this area we achieved a very good performance. For example, easily you can see how big Danilo is, how heavy he is. His speed is really equal to be with Lorenzo or Dovizioso. Always in the past we suffered with the same engine power. This year we are very, very close to them. It means our bike has improved in this area. It's good in this point. It's still not finalised, this evolution that we are doing but probably it looks steady. Probably in the near future it will be transferred to the factory riders, these evolutions.

Crash.net:
So Gigi comes to you with a prototype and asks you to test it?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Yeah. Sure. He's bringing some stuff. We're doing some developments. Some things are good, some things not. We are working on durability, making the bike easier, to do maintenance. Sometimes we have the little problems but this is normal, when you want to develop your machines very fast. Let's say you can do some sacrifice and we knew from the beginning this was our plan.

Crash.net:
Obviously you're not a test team, but are there times over a race weekend when you will be the first to test a certain set-up?

Daniele Romagnoli:
We do. I can say that at the beginning it was a little more difficult, especially in the winter test. Sometimes we lost a lot of track time because we had problems and we couldn't ride all the time. For a rider this is really bad. They need to ride. Otherwise they can't improve. At the beginning it was a little difficult to find the bike running well. But then we did quite a good job together with Ducati. We have a lot of their engineers supporting and following us. Now, we are doing quite a normal job in the garage. I think at the Qatar race, Argentina and the Austin race went smooth. So far it's OK. It's a normal machine now. This is the process. To arrive at these conditions you need to work a lot before.

Crash.net:
Why is Jerez such a difficult circuit for Ducati?

Daniele Romagnoli:
If we knew I think we'd have done something already before! There are a lot of high speed corners, a lot of lean angle. Our bike doesn't like so much this kind of circuit. If we don't have a strong acceleration from low speed onto a long straight, that's why it's not a friendly circuit for us. If we have a long straight, engine power is one of our best points, we can gain some time where we lose in the corners. But this circuit, honestly, the engine is not so important. The important thing is turning and rear grip when you want to accelerate from the high speed corners. That's why it's not the best circuit for us.

Crash.net:
At the Circuit of the Americas we saw the factory riders using the softest rear tyre available for the race, while Danilo was on the hard. Why have we seen such variation with Ducati tyre choice when Honda and Yamaha appears, at times, to be defined?

Daniele Romagnoli:
You are following very well [laughs]. One of the reasons why, with Danilo, we have chosen to go with the hard rear tyre is the weight of the rider and his riding style. Danilo is very heavy. Also his riding style is a little aggressive on the gas. This is the only way for him to go fast. We are pushing him to be smoother but you can't change from one thing to the next one. So this is why we went with that. The soft tyre is good, but only for a few laps. Then we decide to go with the harder. The best lap time is a little slower but it's more consistent. If you have a heavy rider and you want to accelerate like the others, you have to give a lot of thrust, a lot of power to accelerate like the others. Somewhere, this energy goes and passes to the tyre. The tyre has more stress. Going with the hard was a good choice.

Crash.net:
Like Jorge, you have made the switch from Yamaha to Ducati. Can you tell us a little about the changes you found between both manufacturers?

Daniele Romagnoli:
The differences are many. First of all it's the mentality of the people behind the factory. One is Asian and Japanese. The other is European. I am Italian. It's a very different philosophy. Some points of one philosophy are good and the same with the other. For example, keeping things simple, the Japanese are the best. They make things very, very simple. The bikes are simple and it's very easy to do maintenance. There is nothing complicated. It's very, very easy. But this doesn't mean it's good. Durability for the Japanese is an absolute must. The bike never stops. It's easy to work on and quick maintenance. But on the other hand, the Japanese are slow to bring evolutions. For example, at this point Ducati is maybe a little bit too fast. I can say they do it a little too fast.

Anyway, apart from this, the most different thing is that historically, Yamaha is good as a chassis. Handling, corner speed, this is the first point for them. For Ducati it's more about the speed and power of the engine. This is where is the first point for them. For Ducati it's more orientated around the speed and power of the engine. Always, a manufacturer is good at making something it is good at doing. For example, if Yamaha makes a good chassis, they are always working here because they know they can make [something] better. The Ducati is good on the engine side, and also the electronics. We work on this because we know we can do much better.

The differences are many. I can't go too much into details. But something I love about Ducati is the passion there. How much the people work in Ducati. They work flat out. They want to bring things, fix our problems and want to improve. Also, the level people are working at, the engineers, is great. At Ducati you can work closer on the engineering side. At Yamaha you are a bit further. You don't have the direct link inside the factory. You have the link to people but not so much. Let's say there is some filter. In Ducati you are more direct. For some points, it is interesting. You learn many things. Honestly I can say I've learnt more things at Ducati than at Yamaha. This is for sure.

Crash.net:
Are you given more responsibility or trust at Ducati?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Yes, absolutely.

Crash.net:
You've worked with Jorge before. Do you think he is doing the right things to adapt his style to the Ducati?

Daniele Romagnoli:
This thing must be done both ways. The rider must adapt to the bike and the bike needs to be changed for his riding style. This is easy to understand. Lorenzo is a rider used for so many years to a different philosophy of bike, where everything was really high corner speed and handling, agility. He used it so much. So many riders came [to Ducati] from Yamaha. The last one was Cal. When he joined he was a little shocked at the beginning. You can't change your riding style in a short time. You need a long time to adapt. I can understand Lorenzo, his little, not frustration, but pressure he feels because he is a world champion. He can't wait too much. He is a rider that wants things in a short time. The only thing I can say that has happened differently from Cal... Yes, Cal was the same thing. After three or four races he said, 'I don't think this bike will be good for me.' Then he give up with Ducati but at the end of the season he found a way to ride the Ducati. OK, Lorenzo will not do the same mistake. You must be more patient. You have to wait. You have a two-year deal. Take your time. Work together and probably he can have some benefit going forward with this philosophy.

Crash.net:
How much have the electronics moved on since you first started working with the spec software?

Daniele Romagnoli:
It's not optimum, like we used before. Before was easier. Let's say the software we had before needed less action from the rider during the race to change mappings. Something more adapting itself. Now, riders must follow something. They have different maps during the race or qualifying or sessions. They have to play more themselves. They know what to change themselves [whether it is] power, anti-wheelie control, engine braking or traction control. Now riders must adapt more.

Also on our side, as engineers, we need to change more parametres more times than before. I can say they have done quite a good job. Also, Ducati at this point has done well to find a good setting to put in the united software. It depends which number you put inside for the mapping. I'm quite happy about our software and how it works. It's not like before. Absolutely [not]. This is sure. But we're getting quite close to there.

Crash.net:
Do you feel more comfortable using it now?

Daniele Romagnoli:
You never stop learning things. This is what I love and is why I'm still doing this job for so many years. Always there is something different, something to learn. I prefer to learn something. And with Ducati this is very nice. It makes you go crazy and lose some hairs. It makes you more grey. But at the end of the day if you're passionate for this job, it's something you do without any problem.

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