Andrea Dovizioso believes he is approaching the best moment of his career, and is confident that with Gigi Dall'Igna's unrelenting backing, he and Ducati can challenge for podium finishes, week in, week out.
The 30-year old Italian also welcomed Jorge Lorenzo into the Ducati fold at the factory's MotoGP launch on Friday, and feels that the Majorcan's approach and expertise can aid his own quest to challenge at the front of what will undoubtedly be another seriously competitive championship.
“I'm excited because for sure it will be a big challenge,” said Dovizioso, who won his first premier class race since 2009 last November in Malaysia.
“It will be very difficult because I know Jorge very well. But I think I am now in a good situation in my career. I am 30 years old but I feel I am in the best moment of my career. So I'm really happy to have this challenge.
“I'm 30 but I can still learn something from everybody and, in this case, from Jorge. For sure he has a different attitude but I'm happy to analyse him, to study him and to improve. I think everybody that wants to can improve. I can be even more competitive than before for sure.”
While Lorenzo will undoubtedly lift Ducati's level, Dovizioso also pointed to the confidence expressed by technical leader Gigi Dall'Igna in recent weeks as another reason to believe he could be a regular challenger.
Dall'Igna admitted to journalists earlier in the day that the final version of Ducati's GP17 machine would not be ready until round one at Qatar, as he intends to use the three preseason tests to sample different components, with a particular focus likely to be placed on the bike's aerodynamics.
Compensating for the bike's lack of winglets - a definite advantage it enjoyed over rival manufacturers in 2016 - is one aim for those tests, with bettering the bike's mid-corner turning ability another.
“Still we are not fast at every track,” continued Dovizioso. “This is our goal. One of the biggest points is to improve the bike in the middle of the corners. I think we have options. Gigi is a person that you want to work in your area.
“We will have a lot of updates in Malaysia for our bike in every area but I am focussed on our bike and the middle of the corner to try and turn the bike a little bit easier and faster. I think it is what Jorge requested so I'm happy about that. There will be more effort in that way from Gigi to improve the point.”
You can't accuse Ducati of a lack of effort. With this in mind Dovizioso was asked whether regular podiums is a realistic goal for the year ahead. In turn he posited, “I'm not convinced 100 percent that it will happen because I believe we still need something to fight every weekend for the podium. Still we don't have something.
“But the engineers worked a lot during the winter and Gigi has really worked to have everything ready for Malaysia. So that's why I'm confident for the podium at every race during the season.
“Gigi has taken on a big challenge because for sure he expects to win. It's nice to see Gigi confident like this because he really believes in his project. He believes in his engineers. He believes in his riders. I think we miss something but it's not impossible to get it.”
This confidence partly stems from Ducati's fine end to 2016, which not only included Dovizioso's Sepang win, but a podium at Motegi and a strong fourth at Phillip Island - a track the Italian has struggled to master in the past.
"Winning a race, any race, but especially in MotoGP is really big but it's how you win a race that makes the difference. For sure it was in the wet but how I won the race it was something big, something important for me.
"In the last few years I was close to winning a race a few times but I didn't get it. If you compare the result, it's different. In your mind something changes. But like I said before I put more importance and attention into the speed we had in the three races outside Europe [the flyaways].
"The speed we had in those races bettered the victory because if Ducati wants to win the championship we have to be fast in every condition, in any track."