Challenging. Risky. Words Suzuki’s team manager uses to describe its decision to drop Andrea Iannone, and pursue Moto2 rookie Joan Mir over five-time world champion Jorge Lorenzo to complete its 2019 MotoGP rider line-up.

But Davide Brivio believes the Hamamatsu factory pulled off a minor-coup in acquiring the services of Mir – the reigning Moto3 world champion – for the 2019 and ’20 seasons, with Honda and, to a lesser extent Ducati, keen to sign the 20-year old.

If Suzuki’s past record at nurturing class rookies Maverick Viñales and Alex Rins is anything to go by, the young Majorcan can be pushing for top six places in the mid-point of next year. sat down with Brivio at the recent Grand Prix of Catalunya to understand the factory’s thinking behind sticking with Rins for two more years, while placing full faith in Mir’s talent.

Rider Ratings - Catalunya MotoGP
You have signed Joan Mir for 2019 and ’20. What was the thinking behind this decision when it was known that other more established riders were a possibility?

Davide Brivio:
“Of course, we’ve been thinking and discussing the rider situation for next year. As you know, the market starts quite early. We started to think. First of all, we started talking to Andrea Iannone. We had to understand if we could continue or not. We started to think what could be the alternative, what to do and whatever. I have to say we got interest from a few top riders – the ones that hadn’t found a contract yet, two months ago. A few riders confirmed early and then the others were talking.

“During this process, when we realised there was this possibility to get Joan Mir onboard, we started to get excited about that. We wanted to go down that route. Joan probably deserves a project for himself. Of course in the meantime it’s important to say we have Alex Rins who is growing up. He had a very good winter. He had a very good start to the season. He showed the speed. He already got the podium in Argentina and he came very close to the podium at Mugello. He can be there. Now the job we have to do is to show he can be there in every race. But he has the speed to be on the podium, to be in the top five or top six, which is our target. With this we thought, ‘OK, we’ll continue to work with Alex Rins.’ Next year he’ll be in his third year in MotoGP. We have to capitalise on this job and we have to take out his potential and go for that top position.

“In the meantime we think Mir is a great talent. We’ll work on growing him up. And then when both are ready, we can have a strong team for the future. It might take six months. It might take one year, or two. I don’t know. But I think we have the potential to become a strong team in the future. Also, between the new generation of riders, we think they are between the top riders. That’s the idea.

“Of course, I understand that from outside it looks quite challenging. It looks risky. But that’s the way we like to go and there is a discussion, a project and thinking behind it. Time will tell if this has been a good vision or not. But we feel confident and excited that this is a good way for us to go.”
It seems you were at a crossroads: go after one of the most successful (not to mention expensive) riders on the grid, something Suzuki has rarely done in the MotoGP era; or nurture new, exciting talent, of which you have plenty of experience.

Davide Brivio:
“With this project, the job we’re doing with Rins and the job we’re going to do with Mir, it’s something where we can use this experience. We will be on the third rookie. We will try to use all the experience we have and we will learn more. For sure, Joan will allow us to learn even more. We can see that when we work with the young riders, we were paid back. We got good results, satisfactions. With Maverick we got four podiums and a win. Of course, Maverick is a great rider. We scored a win.

“You have to always keep in mind that Alex lost half of the season last year. In his rookie season he only raced in the second half and he has scored one podium, and he has podium pace. Normally going forward you expect better. We are on the way up with Alex Rins. It should be going better and better. We could have two riders on the way up, getting better and better. We will try to do our best but we are confident we can be paid off.”
We know maintaining a good atmosphere inside the garage is a factor in such decisions. Did that come into your thinking? Signing a rider of Lorenzo’s standing might upset the balance in the team?

Davide Brivio:
“I don’t know Joan very well. I wanted to talk to him. We had quite a long chat together. We liked him. We like his personality. The most important thing is that he really wanted to come to Suzuki. Everybody knows he had a choice to go to Honda or come to Suzuki. But for him, Suzuki was the best option. One of our strategies has always been to get the rider that really wanted to be at Suzuki; not the rider that must go to Suzuki, because there was no other choice, or no better choice...