Alvaro Bautista: Nicolo Bulega ‘was going to be the next Valentino Rossi’

Two-time WorldSBK champion Alvaro Bautista claims Nicolo Bulega was supposed to be the next great Italian rider after Valentino Rossi.

Alvaro Bautista, Nicolo Bulega, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race 2, 24 March
Alvaro Bautista, Nicolo Bulega, Catalunya WorldSBK, Race 2, 24 March

Alvaro Bautista got his 2024 WorldSBK season up-and-running a weekend later than expected after having to wait until the sixth race of 2024 to claim his first WorldSBK.

Bautista was winless at Phillip Island, something that had previously not happened in Ducati colours. 

But Bautista took back control in Race 2 of the Catalunya round and he got the better of team-mate Nicolo Bulega, who leads the championship.

And speaking of the championship fight, Bautista was asked about Bulega’s potential going forward.

“Well, this means that, if you want to fight for a championship, you have to have a good bike but also good riders,” Bautista told Motosan. “Nicolo [Bulega] has come from winning the Supersport title and is a very talented rider.

“You give a talented rider a good motorcycle, and he will go fast from day one.

“When he arrived in Moto3, he was Valentino's sponsor and he was the future Italian promise, he was going to be the next Valentino [Rossi].

“Then he had problems and the truth is that more was expected of him. He didn't hit the key.

“But when he came to Supersport, from the first moment he was fast on the Ducati. So I think what Ducati was missing was fast and competitive riders.”

Bautista has always maintained the stance that Bulega would be a title threat, and the Spaniard is being proven right.

In fact, Bautista expects him to be the main contender: “I already said it last year, that for me Toprak [Razgatlioglu] would go very fast with the BMW; and that [one of] the strongest riders this year, and the best candidate for the title was Nicolo.

“It was very clear to me. His way of working and his mentality is the same as mine. For me he is the main candidate for the title.”

Bulega and Bautista are not the only Ducati riders who have been strong as Andrea Iannone has also been very impressive through the opening two rounds.

Iannone has been on the podium twice in six races, and while the results have been strong, the consistency is what has surprised Bautista the most.

Bautista added: “I knew he was going to go fast, but he has surprised me with his consistency in these first rounds, because he has always been fighting at the front.

“Andrea has talent, he has always been fast. He has lacked managing situations a bit. But I see him more mature, much calmer.

“Anyway, I think he's four years younger than me, so he's old but not that old. He is a veteran [jokes].”

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