Alvaro Bautista has called the decision to return to Ducati for the 2022 WorldSBK campaign as ‘very easy’ following two tough years at Honda. 

Bautista, who has already enjoyed a good start to pre-season testing with the Italian manufacturer - set the third quickest unofficial lap ever for a Superbike at Portimao last week, believes returning to the Aruba.it Racing Ducati team will bring him the same enjoyment as 2019. 

By far his best season in WorldSBK, 2019 saw Bautista push six-time world champion Jonathan Rea for much of the year, before eventually losing out to the Kawasaki rider. 

Speaking about the decision to join Ducati for a second time, Bautista alluded to his feeling with both the Panigale V4 R and the team as major reasons why: "I came back to Ducati so I’m quite happy because I had good memories from my first season in WorldSBK with Ducati," Bautista told WorldSBK.com. 

"I won a lot of races but especially the atmosphere was fantastic, and I felt really good riding the bike; I enjoyed it a lot. 

"I’m happy to come back and hope to enjoy this season like I enjoyed 2019. I decided to come back after two years with Honda. I suffered a lot because the bike was quite new and needed a lot of development. 

"At mid-season of 2021, Aruba spoke with me and they wanted me, and I wanted to come back to them so in the end, it was very easy. I like to enjoy riding the bike and in the last two seasons, I didn’t."

In terms of who can join current world champion Toprak Razgatlioglu and Rea as a consistent championship challenger, Bautista is expected to fill that role. 

With team-mate Michael Rinaldi yet to consistently deliver on the potential he’s shown, and Scott Redding leaving for BMW, Bautista has the most chance of taking the fight to Razgatlioglu and Rea, which was also highlighted by last week's two day Portimao test.

Bautista was less than two tenths away from Rea come the end of day two (four tenths from Razgatlioglu) in what was his first test of 2022, while race pace was very strong for the former MotoGP rider - an area that was by far his strongest whilst at Team HRC.

The 2021 campaign was arguably the best in Superbike history, and although it could be tough to match that level of racing this upcoming season, Bautista expects another similar season where many riders are competing at the front, unlike 2019 when it was just Jonathan and me’. 

Bautista continued: "I remember in 2019, it was just Jonathan [Rea] and me because if he won, I was second and if I won, he was second. 

"In the end, there weren’t many rivals. Fortunately, this changed. We have more riders fighting for the top positions. 

"Sometimes it will help because, for example, in 2019 if we had more riders fighting for top positions in some races, maybe I can gain more points but also you can lose more points as well. It will be interesting. 

"I think the level of this championship is, every year, higher and higher. Not only for the riders but also for the manufacturers. It will be fun this season because we will have many riders fighting at the front."