As MotoGP title runner-up for the past three seasons, the daunting task of trying to defeat Marc Marquez falls on the shoulders of Andrea Dovizioso more than most.

In 2017, Dovizioso tied Marquez for race wins (six) and took the championship down to the final round. But while Marquez's victory tally has climbed from 6 to 9 to 12 in the seasons since, Dovi's has dropped 6 to 4 to 2.

Honda success in closing Ducati's top speed advantage has been a key factor in Marquez breaking clear from Dovizioso, with the #93 no longer needing to risk as much to claw back time lost on the straight.

As Dovizioso puts it, Marquez was simply the quickest rider last year, leading to the huge 151-point title advantage, equivalent to over six race wins.

With that in mind, although the Italian is focussed on maximising every aspect of his own performance for 2020, the bottom line is that he and Ducati need to find more speed if they are to trouble the Honda rider for the title.

"If we analyse last year, [Marquez] was faster than everybody," Dovizioso said. "When you have to fight with a rider that is faster, you can try to find a [better] strategy, but it's difficult to beat him over the 19 rounds, if you are slower. This is what happened last year.

"There is always a margin to be better and there are things I can improve on for sure. But to say last year our strategy or approach was wrong, I don’t agree.

"We have to be a bit faster to fight against Marc, but everybody has to be a bit faster to fight against Marc! Because the end of the season confirmed his speed was different to everyone else."

While Marquez (currently recovering from shoulder surgery for the second year in a row) starts as clear favourite for what could be a ninth world title in 2020, Dovizioso knows no-one is unbeatable and feels as many as five or six riders could yet be in the title hunt.

"It's impossible to know now how the championship will be, but for sure the guy to beat is Marc, who did something incredible last year," said Dovizioso,

"But I think that on paper we are five-six riders able to win the championship, not just the races.

"Every season has a different story, the rear tyres will be a bit different, there is a big development in MotoGP about the aerodynamics, we will see the difference between the competitors and everybody works so hard during the winter.

"But for sure on paper Marc is Marc and has won all the time, this is the reality. But I believe no one is unbeatable and we have to start the season with this mentality and try.

"I think from the riders' and engineers' point of view we’ve worked at the maximum and we will see what happens during the season."

Rather than speculating on ways to exploit Marquez and Honda's weak points, Dovizioso has spent the winter trying to be better in every area.

"I'm really focussed on me, like always in my career," he said. "I started training for this season in the middle of December.

"There is always a chance to do better in every area, from the bike side but especially from riders. I've always been focussed on that during my career and I will never stop, because I know how important it is.

"The level in our championship is so high that every year you have to do better if you want to fight for important results and what we did in the last three years has been incredible, really good, but it wasn't enough.

"So I'm focussed on training, physical condition, but especially about the mental side. I know from the past how much you can improve the small things which, in the level we are at now, can make a big effect at the end."

Asked to name something specific, Dovizioso highlighted qualifying as an area that needs to improve, the 33-year-old managing just three front-row starts last season.

"The way I manage the weekend or the race, especially in the last three years, together with the team, we've become really strong," he began.

"And for sure I can be quite strong in the fight, but you can always be a bit better in some moment of the race because especially in MotoGP now, with the tyres we have, with the rules with the electronics, sometimes it's difficult to change the situation during the race.

"So it's really important to be in front at the beginning of the race, which means it's really important to start a bit more forward than we did last year.

"Most of the time we gained a lot of positions at the start [helped by the holeshot device], but there is more risk and it's better not to create that situation.

"So there are a few things where we can be better, and where I can better, together with the team. Because most of the time it's a mix from my side, the team and the characteristic of the bike.

"Last year we improved the set-up and my feeling to be strong in the race, but in qualifying I was struggling a lot.

"So we need have to try our best to find what we can do about that because in qualifying it's important to be in the first two rows normally… It's always better to be in the right position in the right moment."

Marquez's only MotoGP title defeat to date came during the 2015 season, at the hands of Yamaha riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi.

Dovizioso will be on track in his new 2020 colours at the Sepang test from February 7-9.



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