Álvaro Bautista Interview: “With the Honda I don’t have to start on the back foot”
Spanish journalist Mela Chércoles sat down with Álvaro Bautista ahead of the first official test of the 2012 season which gets underway at Sepang this week to ask him a few things about last year, this year, Honda, Suzuki, CRT, Simoncelli and rekindled passion. Below you can find the complete translation.
Alvaro Bautista arrived on Saturday in Malaysia for the Sepang test, starting on Tuesday, “with renewed enthusiasm”, the result of having left behind the calamities of Suzuki to ride a bike like Stoner. The Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur again welcomes Bautista, but this time the Talaverano brings a suitcase filled with more hope than ever. In his box at Sepang the promising 1000cc Honda RC213V, inherited from Simoncelli, awaits him instead of the slow train that was the Suzuki.
You’re radiating a sense of complete bliss. Is that the case?
I have renewed passion, because this season is a big change in my career and I face it with great enthusiasm, very eager to start and with the goal to continue working as usual, but now with a good base before I even begin. That’s always more motivating than when you know you start on the back foot. With the Honda this is not the case.
Did you feel the winter was very long?
Honestly no, because I’ve been very focused on preparing as good as possible and had to undergo surgery to remove the nail which they put in in the fractured femur from Qatar.
And what a nail. It was like 42 centimetres, right?
Yes, it was huge. The size of the femur. For people to get an idea, it was like my whole thigh, from knee to hip.
How did everything go?
Very well and I’m at 100% now, even better than when I had the nail, because I’ve gained some mobility in the leg. I am recovering from the limitations I had.
How did you test that?
Basically with some motocross – carefully, because we already know that it’s dangerous – and cycling, fitness and flexibility exercises. No Supermoto, because now the asphalt is very cold and I do not want to risk a crash. I’m getting stronger, because with the 1000cc I do not know what I’m going to find.
Has Honda already shelled out and given you a Honda CRF for Motocross?
[Laughs] They’re going to.
What goal have you set yourself for this test in Sepang?
I think I’ll have to slow myself down a bit, to curb my enthusiam. [Laughs] The tests in Sepang are very tough – three days, very hot, with a lot of humidity and especially coming from three months without riding a MotoGP bike. Added to this it will be a 1000cc with more power and as on the first day I’ll do laps at the maximum, on the third I’ll be drained, because the muscles are not used to it. We must get the body and mind used to the speed again. Besides, I’ll get to know a new bike and a new team. I didn’t set objectives. Just getting the feeling and enjoy riding. There will be time to push. Now we have to go from little to more, not wanting more than what’s possible.
That’s all fine, but the fastest in this test last year was Simoncelli and that gave him a tremendous motivation…
[Laughs] It’s always nice to be ahead, even if it’s only in a test. But right now I have still a lot to learn, because it is a new bike, 1000cc instead of 800cc, and a new team. Moreover there’ll be the novelty that I will ride the forks and rear suspension from Showa instead of Öhlins, as the others. And to that you also have to adapt.
Are you worried that your Honda uses Showa and not Öhlins like Stoner and Pedrosa?
It is a proposal they made and, after thinking it through, it may have more pros than cons if all goes well, because Showa has been the suspension for Honda forever, except the last two years. The bad thing is that we will not have data from other riders. I’ll be the only one and have to make my way alone, but I’m used to this after my two years at Suzuki. Now it won’t be a whole bike, only the suspension and I made the final decision.
It helped the decision that your crew chief Antonio Jiménez has experience with Showa…
Yes. He has worked extensively with Showa and when he was with Melandri he saw that there was not much difference between Öhlins and Showa, neither regarding laptimes nor the feeling for the rider. Also, Showa is almost owned by Honda and its suspension brand of a lifetime.
Inevitable question: Have you been in contact with Gresini and do you feel they’ve absorbed the loss of Simoncelli yet?
We’ve spoken a few times on the phone to send best wishes for the holidays, but I talked more with Toni Jiménez, who is my technician and has already been at HRC testing the bikes and told me about the feeling he had. It seems that the team is once again completely and very excited about this project. I noticed that also with the sponsors. It’s always hard to forget what happened last year, but right now people are eager to smile again.
Will you carry a 58?
Of course, Marco’s 58 will be on the bike, leathers or helmet.
Does it give you a bad feeling to be the substitute for a deceased rider?
Wherever Marco is, he’d want the best for the team with which he made his debut in MotoGP and with which he took his first podium. It doesn’t give me a bad feeling at all. These things happen and that’s it. We don’t have to delve into it. Marco is in our memories and in our hearts, so we try to do a good season and dedicate it to him. The day I get my first podium in MotoGP it will be for him. Now we must prepare well to try to get on the podium in this category.
Last year you were well-liked among the grid and most were glad of your good results with Suzuki, the fifth places. Is that no longer so?
[Laughs again] Yes, sure I saw that some were glad when I took a fifth place with Suzuki, but I don’t care what people think of me. Moreover, I hope this year they won’t get along with me because I beat those who say: ‘Oh look, how nice, the poor little thing has finished seventh’. But let’s see how I feel with the Honda. I have worked hard during the winter to prepare as good as possible.
Bautista also talked about the arrival of the CRT, the bikes with engines derived from the series and a prototype chassis. “The CRTs will be a test. They want to cut costs, like in Moto2, and if that’s successful it’s not a bad idea. I’m not saying they are dangerous. If they are too slow, then in a race they’ll get the blue flag and will be passed. It will be more or a problem in practice… But what matters is not the bike but the riders, because some coming to MotoGP lack the experience for the category. We’ll see what happens.”
And about the 1000cc: “I don’t know how much will change. They tried to cut costs and everything’s been a lot more expensive. The 800cc was a pocket rocket and I don’t know what I’ll find with the 1000cc, but it seems “too much bike” for the show. The people want that in the corners and it’s unnecessary to go 360km/h on the straights. The spectators want passes and see group fights in the races.