An exclusive interview with Daniele Romagnoli, crew-chief for Danilo Petrucci in the Yaknich Pramac Ducati squad, on the challenges of adapting to the new MotoGP regulations for 2016.
You have been working in the MotoGP paddock when technical changes have been introduced before but is the change we are currently experiencing the biggest task you have faced as a crew chief?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Yeah, it is because it's the first time we have these kind of these changes all in one shot. We have experience in the past of changing to a different tyre manufacturer, also to a single tyre rule. Therefore I've gained experience let's say of how to go back to before, even if the tyres now are so different. They're not 16.5 [inches] like before, now they're 17 inches. The characteristics of the tyres are quite similar to before [the one-make tyre rule was introduced] so this is one kind of help.

But again, putting these together is quite a big thing because changing the bike - the bike is very different between the GP14 and 15 - and together with the tyres it is a lot of things. You don't know, and especially the rider doesn't know the difference of the bike. Is it the change the tyres? Or the bike? In this case my experience can help to sort out a little easier. It's getting easier to find the way, quicker.

Also the electronics. Of course this is a step back. The performance and bike dynamics will be much different. Then, especially because there are less controls and it is a more raw system, the bike behaviour is again different. So you put many things together and for us it's a big work now. We need more tests. Maybe we don't have enough tests but this is everything, to use our time available.
As a crew chief can you tell us a little how you approach working with these changes? For example, do you choose one factor and decide to solely work on it for a day?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Of course you should concentrate more on one area at a time. What we did at Valencia, which was the first test, we did the factory [2015] software. This was one option that we don't need to think about. Basically we adapt. We keep the bike setting the same from the base setting that we think is best for the GP15. Then just tyres and making laps.

The most important thing for the riders is to learn the tyres. They are used too much to the other manufacturer. For them the riding style and the many manoeuvres that they are doing are quite normal but when you change tyres the feeling is very different. Also, the edge of the tyres is very different. Therefore the best thing has been for us to just concentrate on the tyres from the beginning. Then we introduced the [2016] electronics on the second day in Valencia. Once you introduce the electronics you have the feedback of the rider and you adjust them. At the end of the day we have a different set-up of the bike and you try to find some solution to do with the rider feedback. Once you have done all of these things it is time to restart again.

When you put it all together then you need to refine all the points again; the tyres, maybe you can choose a little harder front tyre for example. Then you change the weight balance of the bike. Also the electronics, at the moment let's say we are developing and finding the best set-up of these. Many things! Finally at the end they go all together but in the beginning for sure you have to start one by one.
At the test in Valencia Valentino Rossi said that riding with the new Magneti Marelli electronics was like going back in time to 2008. Working with the software, would you agree?

Daniele Romagnoli:
It could be. I agree with Vale, yes. But just one thing. For example some bikes need less electronic aides because mechanically in some points bikes are set up worse. Some bikes will find this [adaption] more difficult. It will be interesting at the beginning to see which team, which manufacturer will find the best electronics set-up. In the beginning there could be some surprise. Again, the bike that works more naturally with less electronic aides can have an advantage. It depends also, as some bikes need more aides in the chassis dynamic controlled by electronics. Others need more engine control. It will be interesting.
Will Ducati's experience using Magneti Marelli electronics help speed up the adaption process?

Daniele Romagnoli:
I think for Scott coming from a different manufacturer with very different characteristics he found our bike very nice with nice, smooth engine power delivery. This we worked on very hard already from last year, to have good drive-ability, especially with our engine. I think if you come from a more difficult engine our engine is quite good. We have already done a lot of work with the unit software with our test riders. We also did some tests in the factory, on the dyno with many simulations. Already we can say we are not happy like before but we are going closer to before.
What is your take on the potential of the new electronics? Engineers from different teams obviously have differing degrees of experience with it...

Daniele Romagnoli:
How many things can Dorna put inside the software? All the manufacturers can make a request and it depends at the end how is the agreement. If they want they can put everything inside the box. It's just to agree, let's say with Yamaha, Ducati and Honda ... if we can find an agreement with what we can put inside the ECU you can have the same software as before, when put all together. But then sometimes I'm sure some manufacturer will want to keep something for themselves, to not disclose to the others. But I think at the beginning all the people will be a little unhappy because the software is not like before. You can't control the bike like before. But I'm a little sure that at the end of the year we can have updates and the software we can go closer, not like the 2015 season. But we can go a couple of years before, not seven years.
In Valencia Dorna's technical chief Corrado Cecchinelli said the software was working at ten percent of its potential but come the end of 2016 the differences between it and the '15 systems will be very small.

Daniele Romagnoli:
I think so. I don't think now we have ten percent, we are at fifty percent [potential].
How are you finding working with the GP15, the bike on which Danilo will start the season?

Daniele Romagnoli:
The GP15 as we know from the 2015 season and the other riders from Ducati is a very different machine. As a concept of it being very, very different from the GP14.2 this machine is smaller, lighter and the handling is much better. Also the turning capability is much better than the GP14. One of our biggest problems with the GP14 was turning, especially when you stand up the bike. The GP15 is quite good in this area. Another good point is the acceleration. The power delivery from the engine is very good so these are very good points. The braking stability, for example, is quite similar to the GP14. At the end, I'm quite sure the GP15 has much more potential than the older bike.
I think it is fair to say Danilo surpassed many peoples' expectations in 2015, the first year you worked together. How is he to work with?

Daniele Romagnoli:
I've been very happy to work with Danilo and actually we didn't expect to be in the top ten in the championship. It has been a big surprise. I'm very happy because it's like growing up again a rider. I've done it in the past, also with other riders like Cal [Crutchlow], who was one rider who had more experience in Superbike and Supersport than Danilo. It was also growing up a rider in a new category and there are many things to learn. I'm doing quite a similar process and it's been very hard with Danilo.
Of course his experience is less than someone like Cal. With Cal he was a really great guy, we had really great years and I have really good memories. But in some points I'm finding something similar with Danilo.

Being young and this year [2015] has been basically his first year in the top class even if he did three before. He was in MotoGP but let's say, technically, his bike was not really ready for MotoGP. He's learning a lot with this team, especially working in a factory team like our team, with a lot of professional people working here. It's very good for him and he's learning a little by little. He's not making big steps in the learning process but always I prefer someone that learns a little, and what they learn, they keep. Really this is an improvement.
So it is important to work through things step-by-step, rather than aiming to make one giant stride...

Daniele Romagnoli:
You can't make steps in one shot. If you want to make these kinds of steps or you have this capability from your potential and you are good to ride then you have this really good point. But sometimes you need to learn and if you can't do it one shot. If you want to do that, the step is too far. If you want to push too much then crash then it's about what you lose, not what you learn. Basically I prefer doing little steps, more sure steps and then you keep it for you.
What do you feel is Danilo's greatest strength in terms of his approach or riding ability?

Daniele Romagnoli:
He is very strong on the brakes. I think this is the point; in the braking from high-speed points. Unfortunately his mass is big so this makes some troubles. Aerodynamically he is at a disadvantage compared to some other riders. But, well, we can't change this. He is working very hard on himself to keep a good body shape and to make the right physical preparations.
For riders like Danilo and Andrea Dovizioso, who are both renowned late-brakers, do you think the new profile of the Michelin front could affect them more?

Daniele Romagnoli:
This is for sure that they will be affected in this area a lot, especially in braking and entering the corner. At the end of the day riders will brake harder with the Michelin tyres; it's the manner of finding this limit and understanding where this limit is and how to change your riding style. Absolutely, you will have to change your riding style. I don't think we've changed so much. It's the same for everybody. The best riders will be the best riders anyway.
So you don't foresee a big change in the running order?

Daniele Romagnoli:
I don't, no. For me the best bike will be the best bike. The best rider will be the best rider.
The testing times at Valencia were very close. Will the new rules help to bring the field closer together?

Daniele Romagnoli:
Yeah, but Valencia and even Jerez always have quite close lap times. I think at the end of the season, like I said earlier, the best rider will be the best rider. Perhaps at the start of the season some riders will adapt earlier to ride certain bikes so maybe at the beginning there could be a different value. Sometimes you don't expect to be there. But for me it will only be at the beginning, two or three races, and then it will be the same as we know.
Will the addition of Scott Redding to the squad be a good thing for your side of the garage?

Daniele Romagnoli:
It could be possible. Having two riders, especially where the body size is similar, can help with the setting. But also having two riders like this can help with internal competition. All this brings a higher level of course. It brings hard work for us. But also hard work for them because they want to beat their team-mate. I love this kind of competition.
One final question Daniele. Personally during January and before the first test of the new season do you have a chance to take some time off?

Daniele Romagnoli:
After the test [at the close of 2015] we collected all the data from Jerez and Valencia to understand what we can prepare for Sepang and Phillip Island. We will work with the bike. Obviously there will be a lot of things to try. In Sepang we will concentrate first in one area; for example, we'll concentrate in tyres, then chassis, electronics. Then once you find a good base setting you start to re-test everything to try everything again. We have a lot of time in the winter. Having the GP15, we can have a little free time because we don't need to develop the GP16. We have a little more free time and also we need it because it has been a long last few months for everybody.



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