So it begins. The riders are yet to hit the track at Mugello, as they faced the media earlier today. The press conference featured Italian riders Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci and Moto2 competitor Francesco Bagnaia. The other half of Alma Pramac Jack Miller and Marc Marquez joined the local stars at the table.
Valentino Rossi possesses a special bond with the Mugello circuit, where he has been invincible from 2002 until 2008. “Mugello is a special weekend for me & for all the Italian riders, it is the historical Italian GP. Track is fantastic as well as the atmosphere, especially on Sunday”.
Looking back to the French GP, where the Italian scored an unexpected 3rd place, he said: “In Le Mans it was a good podium finish but that's always a good track for Yamaha. We have to understand our potential here, the test was not fantastic for me, I was not very fast, the conditions were not fantastic. We are going to start similarly to Le Mans from the base".
The nine-time champion currently stands 4th in the championship with 56 points, only three less than his teammate Maverick Vinales in 2nd. Marc Marquez holds a comfortable 36-point-lead, but the contention is fiery behind his shoulders.
Alma Pramac's Danilo Petrucci is eager to build momentum after crossing the line in second at the French GP. “It’s always special to be here, the track is one of my favourites. We arrive with a very positive feeling. We'll be very precise on the details working on the bike, after last year & two weeks ago I know that maybe one of the targets is to be on the podium, but it will not be easy”.
Petrucci is among the hopefuls who are likely to be picked to replace Jorge Lorenzo at Ducati. This adds some extra pressure to the Italian, as he is required to prove his 2nd place at the French Grand Prix was not a fluke.
His teammate Jack Miller could be in line too and his hopes to do well at Mugello are high: “After such a consistent run it’s a new feeling. Since hopping on the Ducati I’ve found some new form. I will have to try to bring the momentum coming off the last races. It will be interesting, the bike is the one that won last year”.
Andrea Dovizioso collected yet another zero at Le Mans, which ruinously dropped him down to 9th in the standings: “It was quite clear what happened. I just was too relaxed because my speed in that moment was really good. I overtook Jorge because I wanted to be at the front because I saw that Zarco was very aggressive. I made a mistake in the breaking point and it was in the downing. I made a very small but bad mistake".
“I think we came here in a completely different situation than last year, we are quite far from Marc. We showed really good speed and we know we have to start to gain some points. At the test a lot of riders were fast, but overall I feel confident on the bike."
MotoGP rider-to-be Bagnaia was involved in today's press conference as a treat for his home Grand Prix. The Italian has been a member of the VR46 Academy for over 4 years and he is currently competing in Moto2, where he placed 5th with the Sky Racing Team by VR46 in 2017. “I’m nervous, excited but most of all happy to be here. Next year I will be with the fastest riders on the planet, including Valentino that is my idol, it is incredible. It is my first time here in the conference & next year I hope I can stay here a few more times”.
Asked about Ana Carrasco's brilliant win in the WSBK, Valentino Rossi declared: “We follow Ana because we know her from Moto3, last year she already won & this year is at the top". The Italian said he had never thought about having a woman in his academy, but did not close the door to a potential female entry in the future: “Why not? It's open, it's not just for men”.
The riders' market soon became the key topic of the conference. Joan Mir, following the rumours concerning his pre-contract with Honda, has apparently been overlooked by the team and could be possibly eyeing Suzuki. Dovizioso is not sure about Mir's remarks on his readiness to occupy a spot in MotoGP, as the Italian feels one has to make sure he is ready to make the step before actually looking for a contract. “I think he’s really good rider, I don’t know a lot about him but I feel he’s quite smart. I’m not always in favour of rushing, trying to reach MotoGP as soon as possible. It’s always better to arrive more ready. Maybe he’s right or maybe it’s too early...”
Ducati's vacant ride has all drivers wondering who the chosen one will be. There is also a small chance DORNA could take care of Lorenzo's issue and arrange a comeback to Yamaha. Valentino Rossi thinks the Spaniard is not likely to re-join his former team: "I have been Jorge’s teammate already and he is a great rider. I think will be hard if Lorenzo come back. The situation will be similar to this year (with Zarco)”.
Other than WSBK, today's press conference was flavoured by a question on Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane resigning. Valentino Rossi expressed his opinion over the Frenchman leaving: "It is a bit difficult to understand, he won 3 in a row. The first idea would be to continue, but he said it is the right moment, maybe in football you need new motivation”.