The Italian factory, which at that time was yet to take a top-five finish with its RS-GP, clearly harboured hopes of convincing the triple title runner-up to race for the team in future.

Dovizioso attended three tests for Aprilia, a debut at Jerez followed by a rain-ruined outing at Mugello, then a ‘very interesting’ two-day test at Misano in late June.

“Aprilia Racing is taking measures to find the best solution in terms of the riders to put on the grid in 2022,” Aprilia’s Massimo Rivola said after Dovizioso’s Misano test.

"Andrea is certainly included in the solutions we are assessing, but there are very interesting and valid alternatives on the table and a decision must be taken soon.”

Ducati's BIG DECISION coming soon! | Crash.Net MotoGP Podcast 59

While Aprilia was keen to sign the 15-time MotoGP race winner, Dovizioso remained hesitant.

“They wanted to do that [race] from the beginning,” Dovizioso said at Silverstone last weekend. “But I explained to them I was living (a different moment). I didn’t want to do even the test. But they convinced me because, especially Massimo, worked in the right way.

“Massimo is a really smart person. So we did that [tests]. But from the beginning I told them in this moment I don’t feel I want to do this [race] for next year.”

Another big name soon appeared on the Aprilia radar in the form of Maverick Vinales, the fallout from his shock split from Yamaha in-turn opening up the chance for Dovizioso to race a factory-spec M1 for the RNF team in 2022.

Aprilia has gone on to be the surprise of the season, celebrating seven podiums and its first race win.

Yamaha leads the standings with reigning champion Fabio Quartararo, but it’s been a different story for the other M1s, with Franco Morbidelli just 19th, Darryn Binder 21st and Dovizioso 22nd.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say that Aprilia would have been the better option for Dovizioso, but the Italian has no regrets.

“No [regrets]. Because everything is related to the feeling you have when you’re doing something. The feeling [during the Aprilia tests] wasn’t good enough to say, ‘I want to do this, this and this’,” he explained.

Pulling Dovizioso in favour of the Yamaha option was a memorable 2012 campaign on a satellite M1 for Tech3, when Dovizioso took six podiums and finished fourth in the world championship on a year-old machine.

Tech3’s Herve Poncharal recently told Crash.net that the ‘dream’ to race a factory M1 probably never went away and Dovizioso confirmed:

“In the mind of the rider, you are convinced by a lot of things. In my mind it was 2012, the last time I raced with this bike.

“In my mind, I was convinced with Yamaha from that year. In my mind, ‘OK, if I have a factory contract, I really want to do it with Yamaha’. And the possibility came. So that was the only option.”

Unfortunately for Dovizioso, almost from the moment he first rode the ‘modern’ version of the M1, at Misano last season, he realised it required a very specific style that only Quartararo can currently master.

“For me what happens on the bike is so clear. I never changed my opinion. Straight away I could feel it. There is no question in my mind,” he said at the British Grand Prix.

“The way to be faster [on this bike] is the same story – make more speed in the middle of the corners and not pay too much attention to the traction area.

“To be faster, I have to carry more speed in the middle and exit wide. But for me it’s very difficult to do that. That’s it.”

The 36-year-old now has just two races left before hanging up his MotoGP leathers. While it’s nice to imagine he can simply go out and enjoy his remaining laps on a grand prix prototype, in reality “everything is related to speed. Especially as the way to ride this bike is not my way.

"If we don’t have the [timing] transponder, we can enjoy. But like this, no.”

Although Dovizioso can’t make the M1 work, and isn’t seeking any MotoGP alternatives for 2023, “I know I can be competitive even if I am 36 years old.

“I never tried to speak to someone about next year [but] I believe I can be competitive in a different situation. How much I don’t know.

“Two years ago I was 4th [in the world championship]. I’m convinced I’m fast. I don’t have any question about that. That can’t change from one year to the other.”

“Aleix has a style even [more old school] than me. It’s not related to that. Do you think in two years the position on the bike can change the championship? I don’t think so.”

Yamaha’s 2023 horsepower quest ‘right way to go… with Fabio’

The gulf in performance between the Yamaha riders this season creates something of a development dilemma.

Should the factory risk wide-ranging changes to try and raise the level of all its riders, but potentially lower Quartararo’s performance (the Marc Marquez and Honda situation) or focus on engine development - the only area where Quartararo has been pleading for progress?

Unsurprisingly, Yamaha has chosen the latter, including hiring ex-Formula 1 engine designer Luca Marmorini as a consultant.

“This is the right way to try to be more competitive with Fabio, yes,” said Dovizioso of Yamaha’s 2023 engine focus.

But it wouldn’t have been a major benefit for Dovizioso and, by extension, the other M1 riders.

“If you give me more power but I am slow in the corner, I will be slow the same,” he said. “How can you change the speed in the middle of the corners with more power? It’s not about power for me.”

Nonetheless, Dovi understands Yamaha’s strategy of addressing Quartararo’s needs first.

“This is normal. Honda did this with Marc and they won a lot of things. I accept that. Maybe if I’m Yamaha I would do the same thing.”

European manufacturers ‘risk more’ than the Japanese

Quartararo and Yamaha may be leading the world championship but Ducati, Aprilia and KTM riders filled the top six places at the British MotoGP with only one Suzuki (Alex Rins) and a Yamaha (Quartararo) inside the top ten.

Dovizioso, who spent eight years with Ducati before the Aprilia tests and satellite Yamaha return, feels momentum has clearly swung in favour of the European machines.

“That's clear. Not from now. I think in the last five, six years, it started to change,” Dovizioso said. “The structure of the European manufacturers are completely different than the Japanese, and how much the Europeans are pushing and how many risks the Europeans are taking is completely different than the Japanese.

“That changed completely MotoGP. That’s clear. But not from this year. At the end, the base of the Japanese [bikes] is I think still better, but the base is not enough. You need a complete package.

“In my opinion, the European manufacturers show how good they are now because they work in a different way, but especially the structure of the team and behind is different than the Japanese manufacturers.

“They [Japanese] won a lot of things. They did a [great] history. But this is development of the best class in motorcycling. This [change] is normal.”

Agreeing that the Japanese factories need a different mindset to respond to their European rivals, Dovizioso gave an insight into his own experience in trying to adapt to the M1.

“I couldn’t work in the way I wanted, to try to change the situation. But, when you speak to them, and we did a lot of meetings, you understand this is the mentality. This is the character of the manufacturer; you can do this and you can’t do this.”

“I think the point is the mentality,” he added. “It’s wrong to say ‘this is what they have to do’. I’m not that kind of person. But it’s more the mentality. The reaction of the Japanese is different than the reaction of the Europeans.”

Dovizioso will start his penultimate event for Yamaha in Austria this weekend, the scene of some of his greatest victories, over Marc Marquez in 2017 and 2019.