Bulega was fast from the beginning as he showed the type of pace that could become a worry for the two-time WorldSBK champion.

Bulega then got stronger as the two-day test went on as he claimed a P2 finish behind GRT Yamaha rider Remy Gardner.

Focusing on the new weight limit rule, Bautista didn’t attempt to set the world alight after winning all three races at the season-finale.

However, the Spaniard also didn’t expect to see Bulega be the top Ducati, telling WorldSBK.com: “I knew that Nicolo was very fast and he rode the bike some times before in other tests, so he knew the bike already. He has more or less a base setup. Sincerely, I didn’t expect it but I also expect it; he is fast and he got the feeling very quick with the bike. 

“At the moment, I am focused on myself and to try and improve the bike with the weight. 

“Fortunately, this is the first test so we have many days before the first race to find a good solution for our problems.”

Bautista’s comments came following day-one where he praised the Italian for his performances en route to winning the Supersport title.

Bautista said: “He’s a nice guy and talented rider, winning the title last year so for sure he’s fast. 

“He knows more or less the bike and has a base set-up. He will be one of the riders who fights for podiums and victories during the season and it is nice to have a young rider like him because the first rider you want to beat is your teammate. 

“In the box, it’s like an extra motivation for me and the team on my side.”

Bulega wants to ‘beat everybody’

While finishing ahead of your team-mate is the main goal for any rider, especially when that team-mate is the reigning world champion, Bulega is not looking solely at Bautista.

Keen to make his mark in 2024, Bulega added: “Honestly, I don’t know what kind of work Alvaro did. I don’t want to beat Alvaro, I would like to beat everybody! 

“Alvaro is now the reference point for Ducati because he’s the best. He’s fast and it’ll be very difficult to beat him. 

“We still have a lot of work to do and I’m still trying to learn the bike to understand better the DNA of this bike because it’s more difficult than WorldSSP. It’s all more. More brakes, more engine, more electronics.”