After witnessing the new GP15's initial laps at last week's Sepang MotoGP test, Valentino Rossi had declared that Ducati 'can fight' with Honda and Yamaha this season.
The Italian was even more convinced by the conclusion of testing, when Iannone and Dovizioso were fourth and ninth in terms of best lap time.
“I think that they are fast,” said Rossi, who was fifth quickest. “I saw Dovi and Iannone in great shape and I think that the [GP15] is already very strong for being new. Being very young. So I think that during the season, for sure in practice with the softer tyre but also in the race, Ducati can be dangerous.”
The GP15's debut form also reinforced Rossi's opposition to Ducati receiving the Open class technical concessions, available to any factory entries without a race win in 2013.
It means Ducati plus new manufacturers Suzuki and Aprilia have four litres more race fuel than Yamaha and Honda, a softer rear tyre allocation (at the expense of the hardest tyre option), more engine changes, no engine development freeze and greater testing opportunities.
However the fuel advantage will be reduced and softer tyre allocation removed if certain results are achieved. Admitting he didn't fully understand the process for changing the fuel and tyre benefits, Rossi asked what would happen if Ducati won a (dry) race this year.
Told that the Ducati riders would then lose two litres of race fuel, Rossi replied: “So nothing. Because 24 or 22 [litres] is the same.”
In other words Rossi doesn't think Ducati are using more than 22 litres at the moment - a theory confirmed by Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall'Igna at Sepang: “We finished with 22 litres in all of last year's races.”
Fuel will also be reduced if Ducati riders accumulate two second places or three podium places in dry conditions. Only one of last year's three Desmosedici podiums, a third place for Dovizioso in Texas, was in the dry.
Rossi then asked what it would take for Ducati to lose the softer rear tyre allocation. Upon hearing the answer, the seven time MotoGP champion decided it would be better if Ducati spend all season with the softer tyre...
“Three (dry) wins! Faaak... So we hope that they keep the softer rear! But I think for me this rule is very unfair. Because now the [Ducati] is very fast. So I don't understand why they have this advantage. Last year maybe yes, but now they are fast like us with our [rear] tyre. So I don't know why they have the softer tyre.
“It is something strange that, in motorsport, only happens in MotoGP.”
The Open class concessions mean that if Bridgestone brings soft, medium and hard compound rear tyres to a race, only the soft and medium are available to the Open class (plus Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia). Honda and Yamaha then select either the medium or hard tyres. Front tyre allocation is the same for all.
The main grievance that the Honda and Yamaha riders have is that because the hardest tyre option is rarely beneficial, they end up racing with the same 'medium' option as Ducati - but without a soft compound for qualifying or 'cold' races.
2015 will be the second and final season of the Open class rules, with one set of technical regulations being introduced for the new single ECU era. However some technical concessions, including avoiding the engine development freeze, will continue for manufacturers without certain 'to be agreed' top three results.
Rossi endured his only winless MotoGP seasons while riding for Ducati in 2011 and 2012, returning to Yamaha in 2013 and finishing title runner-up to Honda's Marc Marquez last year.
Dall'Igna joined Ducati at the end of 2013, as part of the major restructuring that followed Audi's purchase of the brand and Rossi's departure. Dall'Igna soon attempted to move Ducati into the new Open class to avoid the engine development freeze, a major handicap for manufacturers that are not competitive.
The fall-out was that any non-winning manufacturers could race with the Open class concessions and continue to use their own ECU software as a Factory entry. Albeit, unlike the normal Open class entries, they can lose fuel and tyre benefits depending on dry results.
One more official MotoGP test, in Qatar, remains until the new racing season starts at the same Losail circuit on March 29.