Bautista earned the prize by overcoming previous champions Toprak Razgatlioglu and Jonathan Rea to claim Ducati’s first WorldSBK crown since Carlos Checa in 2011.

But as Rea and Razgatlioglu were keen to point out on the eve of this weekend’s Phillip Island season opener, defending the #1 brings weight and pressure all of its own.

“Alvaro’s a professional guy and managed 2022 very well,” said Rea, who won six WorldSBK titles in a row for Kawasaki. “I know from experience that the #1 is heavy; I had a great season in 2015 and then 2016 was a disaster.

“Alvaro’s a lot older than I was and he has a great package, so he should be OK. The expectation is to be there; you’re ‘the guy’ and not the underdog and there’s a feeling that you have to keep being there.

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“You’re at the top and the only way is down; that pressure is tough," Rea added. "It almost becomes about the fear of losing again. Sometimes, it can work for you or against, but I’m sure he’s got it all sorted.”

Yamaha’s Razgatlioglu, who finished between Bautista and Rea in the standings last season, admitted: “Last year, I felt pressure with the #1 but I’m happy to be back with the #54.”

Bautista: ‘Now you are the one to beat’

This week’s Phillip Island test saw Bautista land the first blow by topping the timesheets at a track where he won two of the three races in last year’s season finale.

But the Spaniard knows the #1 makes him the target and insists he isn’t the favourite going into the new season.

“I don’t think I am the favourite. There are a lot of very fast riders especially in the Championship," he said.

“I feel like the #1 is a personal motivation, a personal challenge, so I feel strong to defend the title with the #1.

“Defending the Championship is more difficult. When you are fighting for the Championship, you go to beat the other riders. Now you are the one to beat.”