As the first round of 2016 fast approaches, Suzuki's MotoGP team manager Davide Brivio sat down with on the second day of the recent test in Qatar to discuss the factory's proactive winter, the vast talent of Maverick Vi?ales and realistic targets for the season ahead.
It's been a positive test so far. Do you feel that if you had to start the season tomorrow you would be in good shape to do so?

Davide Brivio:
Yes, of course. On one side we are positively surprised because I think we are performing well since Valencia test in November, also both Maverick and Aleix were fast in the top position. But then we were still using our own electronics, not the 2016 software. Then when we went to Sepang maybe on a best lap time results we were not in the top position but as far as concerned pace, we were not so bad. Then we were in Philip Island where Maverick has been first overall. Then we came here. We only did one day here but still we are there in the top position. So we are starting to think that probably we are building up something good. But of course, we know very well that we have to wait for the races. At the races as you say now in English, when the flag drops, the bulls**t stops! We are very clear this course. But of course we think positively and we are happy on the way that the test is going.

I have to say that this is also the results of a big job that has been done in Japan. Based on last year, first year experience, and based on the information we got, we made a plan for this winter to work on the major areas, the most important areas where we felt we had the weak points. First of all, the engine performance, which last year was one weak point. Then we are working on a seamless gearbox that we were missing. Now we have the first prep ready, and we are still hoping if everything will be okay to introduce the evolution seamless already by the first race. These are two very important areas. Then as everybody else, we're working on the new chassis. It's not the new bike because nowadays the bikes are always kind of an evolution of the previous bike, except some exceptions, when you want to change completely everything. So we are also continuing this evolution, and we are testing during this week of sessions a different chassis. We call it 2016 chassis versus 2015 chassis. We can see many positive things on the new chassis, which will be very important to have, but also there are other points where the 2015 chassis is stronger.

So we are still testing, still going on. So this is to say that we are working on the engine. We are working on the chassis. We are working on the gearbox, which are three most important areas. Then of course as everybody else we are working on the electronics, the new unified software. This is not development but let's say learning and understanding the new electronics. I have to say that we started not so bad on this. Switching from our software to the [Magneti] Marelli unified software, of course, at the beginning still we have a lot to do. But I think we are reaching a nice level. So we are quite pleased so far on everything. We only have Aleix is a little bit more in trouble in difficulty. Still these last two tests, Sepang was not so bad, then Philip Island and here struggling a little bit to find a good feeling. But yesterday was going good and he had a small crash. We hope that if he gets back the feeling the base of the bike is good.
In Philip Island and Qatar we've seen that Maverick's level is in the top two or top three, and Aleix's level was lower. Is the reality of the bike somewhere in the middle? Do you think maybe Maverick is over-performing or Aleix is underperforming?

Davide Brivio:
It's always difficult to say. Of course we know Maverick is a very strong rider, but I think he's also feeling good with the bike. Last year there's no doubt that our bike, let's say our chassis, was very good, very nice. Everybody can see, and also a lot of riders appreciate that following us. That's why now [after] increasing engine performance, we have a better machine. I don't know if Maverick is over-performing but for sure in this moment Aleix is underperforming, in the way that he didn't get yet the feeling that he's looking for. So we still have some work to do, but this is not his position, his performance.
Was there a concern that if you arrived in Sepang with a lot more power and with the new electronic software you may have offset the bike's user-friendly nature?

Davide Brivio:
So far, no. Maybe we didn't add enough power [laughs]! So far even the 2015 chassis with the better engine is performing well. Maverick is feeling very good with that, so we didn't get this problem. But I have to say that one of the good job that our engineers in Japan have done is we always had very good, very clear in the mind to increase performance in the engine but without losing the smooth character of the engine. So that's why probably we could maintain the good performance, good characteristic, good behavior of the chassis, even if now the speed of the engine is better.
You mentioned the new chassis. You said there's obviously good points with the old points and some good points with the new one. On Wednesday Maverick was saying that he still prefers the '15 chassis but will continue testing the new one. Is it possible the first race both riders could have one chassis - one '15 one '16 - or do you want to have a clear definition before the season starts?

Davide Brivio:
We have parts available and we have packages available so any rider can make his own choice. This is not a big problem. But we need to make a choice, that's important. We are still thinking because on the new chassis we were looking at some weaker points we had in acceleration coming out from the corner, which the new chassis fixed, but we were losing something in another area, agility, and entry, it's always the same story. The blanket is always short! So definitely the new chassis has a good potential, so now we want to try to work a little bit more and to see if we can fix the weak point of the new chassis that should be another advantage. But we are still working on that. We hope by the end of this testing we will have a more clear idea.
Looking at the seamless gearbox, at the end of last year it was expected that both riders would have the full seamless gear box by the first Sepang test, or maybe Philip Island. Was the delay to ensure it was 100 percent reliable?

Davide Brivio:
Yeah, but also because we spent quite a long time to prepare the first seamless, and then we had some delay because it was expected during the season that we had some delay. It was ready by the last races of the season, but we didn't want to introduce for only a few races at the end of the championship. So we decided to delay at the winter testing. But in the meantime also the new seamless started to be developed. So then we ended up with them both ready more or less at the same time - not at the same time but with short distance. Then simply we think that the new seamless is better and we are making all effort to try to introduce it by the first race. And yes, of course it's a delicate component, and you need to make a lot of durability tests, first at the dyno bench which we have concluded, we have done, and then on the track. That's why Tsuda, our test rider, came to Australia to work on the seamless. He came here to do an extra day again on a seamless, and now we are about to start testing with our factory riders. As I say, still it's not sure but if everything's okay, they are happy and we have no trouble, we will then introduce it. But it is one of the delicate areas. Like wheels, brakes, gearbox... They are very delicate area, very important area, where you're always very conscious before to introduce new items.
But you're very confident that for the first race...?

Davide Brivio:
Not very confident, but yes, reasonably confident!
How important has it been to progress this winter to demonstrate to your riders that they challenge at the front with Suzuki?

Davide Brivio:
That's simply our strategy. First of all, Suzuki has entered into Moto GP to develop technology and to be competitive. So that's the first point. Then second point, we also realized that it's very important to show both of our riders our potential, in order that we hope we can continue with the same package, the same group for a long time. That's the idea. For sure, if we are able to deliver good performance and to show that the bike is good, we have much more chance to keep Maverick with us. Of course we are very happy with Maverick and it looks like Maverick is happy with the team and everything. Now we are making all our best efforts to provide also a good machine.
It's clear from his lap times and some of his performances last year that Maverick has a supreme level of talent, but from working with him what is it about the way he works that has been impressing you and makes you think he could become an icon?

Davide Brivio:
You can see that he's a racer. He's a guy that thinks about the race. You always want to be on top. You always want to be the best. He thinks very much about the race. In the race is where he performs better. We chose him because we thought he was a good talent. That's also why we pushed to get him and he spent only one year in Moto2, then jumped immediately into MotoGP, together with what was a great opportunity for us to secure such a talent with Suzuki. So not impressed in the way that we believed that he was a great talent, but of course then it's always nice to get the confirmation and to discover that it's true.
Going into 2016, what are the goals for Suzuki? Podiums? Regular top six finishes?

Davide Brivio:
I'm always very prudent on this speech, but we didn't fix a clear target. I think we have to go step by step. Maybe the first step will be try to stay in front of all the satellite teams, and try to come close to the factory teams. Then the second step will be to get into the group, into the battle, into the fight, and see what happens. If we are able to achieve that, then we have to go and look for the opportunity when the opportunity arises to get on the podium. But we are very much aware that the top group of the riders is very strong, and there are three or four riders that are very strong. There are manufacturers that are very strong. So it's very, very difficult. But I think that we have the possibility to do it. We are working for that. That's the sport and that's the challenge that we have in front of us.
Dorna has recently announced a change to the penalty points system, among other things. What are your thoughts on this? Is this maybe going a step too far after everything that happened in Sepang?

Davide Brivio:
I think that maybe I cannot criticise! I cannot start [laughs]! Of course there are many things that are happening now following the emotions of the end of the last championship. So this decision, we are trying to fix probably something that was not working last year, like the penalty or whatever and try to go into something different, something new. We have to get started and see if it works. I think anyway it will be very important to have maybe a more closer relationship with the riders between Race Direction and the riders. Maybe more warnings or more advice, even more information. 'Be careful if you do this, this can happen,' things like that. Then I hope that what's all the negatives that are happening at the end of the last championship will help us to improve our championship.



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