What did Ducati find at the Catalunya test?

Forget mind coaches, if there was a single turning point for Andrea Dovizioso and Ducati's season it probably came during the private test at Catalunya, between the French and Italian MotoGPs.

Exactly what was tried ("something different") remains a mystery, but there were rumours of new chassis parts.

Since the end of the season Ducati Corse general manager Gigi Dall’Igna, team manager Davide Tardozzi and test rider Michele Pirro have all made reference to the test as a key moment.

Dall’Igna: "We fought back from a tough situation [early in the season] and from the test in Barcelona we improved the performance of our bike quite a lot, on the technical side."

Tardozzi: "We found something after the Barcelona test. We understood that we had something that can be good and it was confirmed at the Mugello and Catalunya [races]."

Pirro: "After the Barcelona test we found some solutions that gave [Dovi] much more confidence. This was an important step and when he managed to win at Mugello, I think his season changed."

Following the Barcelona test, Dovizioso took the first back-to-back race wins of his grand prix career, at Mugello and Catalunya. It was a feat made all the more impressive since Mugello marked the debut of the stiffer Michelin front tyre, a change Ducati had strongly objected to.

What if Rossi wasn't injured - twice?

Given the problems experienced by Movistar Yamaha at low grip and wet events such as Jerez, Catalunya, Motegi, Sepang and Valencia this season, Valentino Rossi doesn’t think his broken leg prior to Misano made much difference to his championship position.

But Rossi also suffered a training injury before his previous home round at Mugello (fourth in the race), which was followed just one week later by the Catalunya Grand Prix.

Rossi's later heroics on his early return from the leg injury at Aragon are well known (third in qualifying, fourth in the race) but what could he have done without the training injuries.

The Italian would surely have scored more points and, while it might not have been enough to overcome the bike issues for a title fight, might Rossi have finished the season as the top Yamaha rider?

Team-mate Maverick Vinales was third in the world championship, two places and 22 points ahead of Rossi…

Would Lorenzo have let Dovizioso by?

Despite all the debate over Ducati's (attempted) use of team orders via the 'suggested mapping' messages at the last two rounds, at no time did Jorge Lorenzo actually let Andrea Dovizioso by.

In Malaysia it was a mistake by Lorenzo that allowed Dovizioso through, while at Valencia Lorenzo remained just in front of the title contender until falling.

Lorenzo said he didn't see the dashboard message in Sepang but was praised by Ducati management after the race, presumably for not trying to re-pass.

And if Lorenzo's stated plan had worked in Valencia - meaning he had caught the lead group, towing Dovizioso with him - would Lorenzo then have pulled aside, with his first Ducati victory within reach?

By the Valencia test, Lorenzo was growing tired of the questioning over his decision to override team instructions in the season finale:

"I don't understand why there is still this polemic. For some people it looks like everything I do is bad.

"I'm quiet because I think I made the right decision. The people who just watch the race on Sunday don’t understand the pace of all the riders on the grid, during all weekend. The ones who are experts know Dovi's pace and what happened in the race.

"I repeat, maybe in some corners or in some moments of the race I could slow Dovi down a little bit. But in general terms - over 30 laps - I'm still convinced that [Dovi following] my wheel helped him to be more competitive. As he has said.

"After he said that, I think nobody should keep talking about it. Because if Dovi says I helped him to be more comfortable and faster, I think the matter is finished."

The only time a Ducati rider allowed Dovizioso to pass this season, following a team message, was Scott Redding at Phillip Island. The Englishman later got a frosty reception for re-passing the struggling Italian.

What happened to Vinales?

Fastest in every winter test and winner of three of the opening five races, Maverick Vinales was the runaway early title favourite. But he didn't win another race and dropped out of mathematical championship contention with two rounds remaining.

Yamaha's 2017 bike problems in the wet and low grip are well known, but team-mate Valentino Rossi later managed a win at Assen and the real mystery was why Vinales wasn't able to repeat his earlier dominant form even on high-grip circuits.

Maybe it was the change in front tyre construction? After all, Vinales didn't win after the switch to the stiffer design from Mugello. Or did the constant supply of revised chassis designs from Yamaha end up causing confusion?

Perhaps the biggest problem for Vinales and Yamaha after Le Mans - at circuits with grip - was simply that they couldn't match the pace of improvements by their main rivals.

Rossi found more confidence with the new front tyre, while progress by Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso (at the Barcelona test) and Honda's Marc Marquez (at the Brno test) saw them dominate the second half of the season.

Beyond Le Mans, Vinales twice finished runner-up twice (Mugello, Silverstone) and third on a further two occasions (Brno, Phillip Island).

What if Iannone didn't fall in Qatar?

Andrea Iannone qualified second on the grid (admittedly courtesy of free practice times) for his Suzuki debut in Qatar, and was running a close third when he crashed out at mid-race distance.

As well the chance of a podium, Iannone was on course to comfortably beat the sixth-place predecessor Maverick Vinales had achieved the previous season.

How much difference might it have made to Suzuki's season if he had stayed on?

With the team later hinting that motivation was a factor in Iannone's results, might a debut rostrum on the GSX-RR have given the boost he needed to push through the difficulties that followed?

Instead, Suzuki spent much of the season floundering, the team's best result being a fourth place by rookie team-mate Alex Rins in the Valencia finale. Another big question is what Rins might have achieved without his Texas injury.

Either way, if had Iannone had claimed a podium in Qatar, Suzuki would not be regaining technical concessions for 2018…

That's just a start. Leave your unanswered questions in the comments section below...

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