An exclusive interview with Alma Pramac Ducati's Danilo Petrucci, conducted in a sweltering pit garage at Sepang on the final evening of the opening 2018 MotoGP test.

The Italian, like factory riders Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo, got his first taste of the new Ducati GP18 in Malaysia, although some technical gremlins meant he spent time swapping back and forth between the 2017 and 2018 machines, on his way to the eleventh best lap time (+0.698s).

Nonetheless, the slimmed-down Italian got enough laps over the three days to declare he already prefers the new bike, which is more user-friendly than the previous version - allowing Petrucci to use 'instinct more than method'.

The interview began with Petrucci carefully studying the combined timesheets…

What do you think Danilo, how does it look?

Danilo Petrucci:

14 riders in one-second. On a two-minute track. Many different manufacturers and teams… It's close!

I am happy about this test, even if I didn't have the chance to work a lot with the 2018 bike. This morning, unfortunately, during the best track conditions between 10 and 12 O'clock we had a mechanical problem. I had to wait in the box and then use again the 2017 bike.

The main problem for me at this test was to keep adapting every time, because the first day I switched from one bike to another. Yesterday I had to collect some data for Ducati with the 2017 and today we had a problem with the 2018. So always one bike then the other.

And at this high level, as you can see from the results, even a tenth makes a difference. It's quite difficult to always go on the limit, when you don't have time to know exactly where the limit is.

Using only one bike for sure is better and in Thailand I want to concentrate more, and I hope only, on the 2018 bike and watch more the performance. This time I worked on my riding style to try and save the rear tyre. I made some improvements in the opening of the throttle, I'm a little bit more smooth, but - ah! - anyway I didn’t touch anything on the 2018 bike.

Overall I'm happy, but also a little bit sad because I watched the others riding very fast and to stay in the box is always a pity. Anyway, it's only a test. We have to prepare well and arrive in Qatar for the first race in perfect shape. In Thailand we'll concentrate more on the performance and moving the weight, trying to explore the new bike.

What do you feel is the main difference with the GP18, from the laps you have done?

Danilo Petrucci:

The main difference is that the bike is more easy to use. I mean there is not a really big difference compared to the 2017 bike. The 2017 bike is still very, very competitive. But with the 2017 bike you have to be very, very precise - use a precise method to ride fast.

With the 2018 the times arrive easier, so even if you make some little mistakes the bike always allows you to make the better line. And this is nice because sometimes you try to make a different line or brake later, or brake harder… This bike allows you to explore the limit. With the 2017 it was more difficult.

And for sure the 2018 engine is more smooth and this helps a lot, especially in the middle of the corner when you open the throttle. Maybe for my weakness - the consumption of the rear tyre - this can also be very useful.

Dovizioso was saying he likes corner entry on the new bike…

Danilo Petrucci:

Yeah, it's like the bike is more stable. So in corner entry you feel the bike more stable, less movement, so you can release the brake earlier and the bike stays there. You feel more the front and turning power is better.

With the 2017 it was very similar, but if you make even one metre earlier, the lap time was always higher. With the 2018 you can do everything with more calmness, so you understand better the bike and you have time to understand which line to use.

It's better. I like it because you can use more the instinct and not the method.

You've lost 4kg in weight over the winter to try and help rear tyre life - did you notice a difference, also on the straights?

Danilo Petrucci:

We looked at some data and the results are better. Even considering the engine is more powerful on the 2018, we saw that I didn't lose so much time on the straight. But my main problem was [the strength] for the G-force in the acceleration.

Combining the smoothness of the engine and having a little bit less kilos, the results are coming. My rear tyre is lasting longer. It's starting to work, but now we have to wait for the races. In the races it's always different.

In testing you have time to control everything, to think more when you are riding. It's a different thing to racing where you have to go into 'automatic' and right now I'm still having to think about this.

Do you want to lose any more weight?

Danilo Petrucci:

Sincerely, yes. I'm still heavy! But I had to work a lot on cardio during this winter and I lost a lot of power [strength], so I struggled a little bit here. Now I have to work to be more powerful, but not regain a lot of kilos.

The Thailand test takes place at the Buriram circuit from February 16-18.



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