Andrea Dovizioso believes Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix underscored ‘the reality’ of Ducati’s potential at Phillip Island, with the manufacturer’s worst showing of the season arriving at this crucial time of the season. 

The 31-year old’s ambitions of winning the 2017 MotoGP championship took a severe blow on Sunday, his 13th place ‘a very bad result’ which stretches the points deficit to current leader Marc Marquez from eleven to 33 points.

Those age-old turning issues that have plagued Ducati’s Desmosedici machines in recent years were ruthlessly exposed around the fast, flowing 2.7-mile track, with Dovizioso’s later issues with rear tyre wear arriving as a consequence.

Dovizioso wasn’t alone in his struggles. For the first time in 2017, not one Ducati finished in the top ten, with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo a listless 15th. Friday’s pace was an illusion, Dovizioso said, with his speed on Saturday – eleventh in qualifying – and Sunday a true reflection of the Bologna bikes’ ability here.

“Well it was a very bad result, especially for the championship," said a rueful Italian. "But for sure my mistake on lap one or two – I don’t remember – created a bad situation. But the reality is not that. The reality is we weren’t fast. That was the real negative point.

“We tried to approach the weekend in the best way. We did a really good Friday but it wasn’t the reality. Just in the qualifying and the race the reality can come through. Unfortunate. It’s not unfortunate, it’s not news because the characteristic of this track is to have good turning.

"This confirms we still have that limit. We finished the tyre eight laps from the end, but I believe all that – our speed and the consumption of the tyre - is a consequence of the turning. This track needs turning. We did really good races this year at tracks where I wasn’t fast in the past.

“But this track has a particular characteristic and the turning is so important. In those tracks [Barcelona, Silverstone etc] we were fast but because of the turning. But here you can be fast only if you’re fast in the middle of the corner and if you don’t use too much the rear tyre.

“There are two bad points: we confirm our limit, and we lose too many points in the championship. That is really bad. Anyway, we want to think positive in the remaining two races. There is still a point to fighting for the championship. We know it’s very difficult but fortunately in this sport everything can happen so, why not?"

Asked whether this weekend felt like a return to his early years with Ducati, when the factory was trapped in a mire, Dovizioso said, “Yes, because when we did seventh or eighth at some tracks like the Sachsenring, Brno or Aragon I had the speed. At the end the tyre dropped too much for some reason and I lost the position.

“Today we weren’t fast so that’s negative. That’s bad. It was nice to feel a good speed in the Sachsenring – at some tracks that normally we are so slow. At the end we struggled a little bit and we didn’t make a podium. But today it is a different story and that is the negative thing.”

So how did he explain his speed on Friday? “It was the approach of the weekend. I approached it very aggressive to try and be on top in every practice. Phillip Island is a strange track with the wind, with the temperature. I tried to do that. I did that lap time because I was behind [Aleix] Espargaro and Maverick [Viñales]. It was a strange situation and I did perfect things. But it wasn’t the reality.”

The Italian switched rear tyres three times on the grid, moving from the medium to soft and back to medium. At first, the movement appeared to be a kind of mind game, an attempt to lure his rivals into a state of mild confusion.

Yet Dovizioso revealed the bad weather across the weekend had deprived him of valuable set-up time, leaving him unsure of the correct compound to fit on the rear of his bike.

“Because we didn’t have a lot of data from the practice,” he explained, when asked about the move. “We did an important test on Friday and it was quite interesting. On Saturday we worked on a different way and we didn’t make too many laps.

“We didn’t have enough data to have the right decision. Last year we finished the tyre at the end and we couldn’t fight for the podium. The tyre from last year was the medium from today. So most of the riders chose the soft one so we said, ‘We have to go with the soft.’

“At the end we struggled with the consumption. We thought in a positive way and tried to save the tyre for a good end of the race. But I think it didn’t change because the soft and the medium, I can be faster at the beginning, slower at the end.”

 

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