A year after his Ducati MotoGP debut and Valentino Rossi is still struggling, with a worse result in the Qatar opener.
Rossi’s comments, made to Italian television media post race, included statements such as “we’ve run out of hope.” He also stated that he can’t ride the Ducati in its current form, and even considered pulling into the pits during the Qatar race.
The Qatar Grand Prix saw Rossi struggle to break into the top 10. He finished a full 33 seconds behind the winner, his former factory Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo. The huge deficit was earned, in part, by an incident on Lap 5 with Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera. The satellite Ducati pilot forced Rossi to run-off during an aggressive maneuver, but despite the racing incident Rossi would still not have been competitive for a top-five result.
Rossi’s dire post-race comments signal a change in tone, from veiled frustration to outright criticism. The seven-time MotoGP champ is notoriously winless aboard the Ducati, his best result a third-place podium last season at Le Mans. Ducati was under incredible pressure to redesign its Desmosedici racebike in the off-season. Ducati Corse General Manager, Filippo Preziosi stated the then forthcoming bike was “90% new” – the team eventually debuting its new GP12 late in the off-season during the pre-season test at Sepang.
Now a year removed from his 2011 Ducati debut, Rossi appears worse off with the redesigned GP12. The Italian admitted in his post-race comments that he would have been fortunate to fight for sixth with his American teammate, Nicky Hayden. And as bad as the 22-lap race was for Rossi, the low point at Qatar was arguably the day prior, when he qualified 12th – the slowest non-CRT bike and more than two seconds off the pace of pole setter Lorenzo.
The discouraging Qatar results, and subsequent fallout from Rossi’s comments, will be a developing story in the run-up to Jerez. It will also be a major plotline for the 2012 season, which could see Rossi washing his hands completely of the Ducati effort.
The negative publicity for Ducati coincides with reports the Italian brand will be acquired by Audi. And speaking of cars, Rossi will race a Ferrari in the opening round of the Blancpain Endurance Series at Monza. The Doctor had notably toyed with a switch to F1 earlier in his career, testing with Ferrari before hitching up with Yamaha again in 2007.