Puig on Pedrosa, Hayden and Repsol Honda role
Keen to make things clear, Alberto Puig gave an exclusive in-depth interview to motogp.com this week, pulling no punches on such issues as his charge Dani Pedrosa, outgoing Repsol Honda rider Nicky Hayden and the move to a single tyre manufacturer for 2009.
Dani was one of the title contenders during 2008, but now even getting second in the Championship from the last two races is looking difficult. What happened?
`First of all, other riders did a better job, there´s no doubt about that. Dani began the season still recovering from recent surgery; even like this, he was leading the World Championship when we got to Germany (July´s Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland). Another crash and another operation midway through the season broke his rhythm and that´s when the outlook changed. He lost a lot of points in just a few races and then lost his chance to fight for the title.´
A radical change made was to switch tyres from Michelin to Bridgestone. What led to this decision?`Because the material we had then wasn't up to our expectations. This year the only ones who were really keen to keep working with Michelin were Honda and Dani Pedrosa. We were promised competitive material and we had that in the first four races, but then -I don't why- the tyres weren´t as efficient afterwards, and that was a long time before Dani crashed in Germany. When you want to fight for a World Championship, it´s natural to get the best - if you don´t have that clear, then you're not sure about what you´re doing. I believe that Michelin did all that they could and we have to be grateful for that; Dani also did his best with that material, but it just wasn´t enough.´
Are you doing a better job with the garage partition in place?`I wouldn´t say that. We work the same way as always. The wall was something that the tyre manufacturers requested; it had happened before with Yamaha and now it happens in our team; it´s not as if anybody specifically requested it. Dani never followed what his team-mate was doing, so we keep working the same way as before, when there wasn´t a wall. Dani wasn´t affected by this.´
Dani´s Repsol Honda teammate Nicky Hayden has mentioned in various interviews that he isn´t keen on the divide. Was there previously any kind of collaboration that no longer exists?`All I can say is that Hayden may be bothered because now he can´t access information and telemetry data from Dani´s bike. With this information he was able to improve his riding, as he had all of Dani´s references and now he can´t use that any longer. He was simply copying as he never knew how to set-up a bike. A professional rider can´t be complaining because he can´t get access to the other rider´s data, because finding what works best is his job, not the other rider´s. Everybody knows that a racing team doesn´t work like a football team. It involves two riders, but each is working for himself and the factory will support the rider who has the best chance. Because when it comes to winning, only one rider wins. It has always been like this and it always will be like this - anybody who says the opposite is just lying to look good.´
Would it be true to say that the relationship between Dani and Hayden has always been quite tense, and that there's nothing new in this respect?
`That´s not the case. Everything changed with the incident in Portugal (in 2006), where Dani made a mistake during the race and apologised for it afterwards. Nicky eventually won the title and Dani did what he had to do in Valencia, which was to help him. But from that point -even if Hayden denies it- all he´s been doing has been talking about how Dani was `weird´ and bringing the people around Pedrosa into the subject. He shouldn´t act like a hypocrite and say that he doesn´t have a problem with Dani, because since that incident in Portugal I think he has talked to him about twice. He shouldn´t involve Dani´s manager in this just because he´s jealous of another rider.´
Was the rivalry between the two as strong as one might think?
`Honestly, and without trying to offend anyone, there was never a rivalry in the garage. Nicky won the title when Dani was in his first MotoGP season, and since then there was no rivalry because he (Hayden) didn´t get the results. On his own, Dani gained experience in this class and Nicky was always behind him, so Nicky has never been a serious rival.´
At the end of last season, there was a lot of talk about the need to improve communication within Honda. Was it the case this year?
`On our side we had a great season when it comes to communicating and work with the team. On the practical side of things, we made a step forward and the factory in Japan also stepped up and has been working frenetically, which gave results seeing that now the bike is performing well. The new Team Manager, (Kazuhiko) Yamano, is very determined in any decision he takes and it has been a great benefit.´
Some critics say that you´re the one who controls things in Honda. How would you reply to that?
`In my opinion, those who say that just lack respect to Honda and the work that they do. All I can do is bring my experience of racing like Honda has asked me to do, as I´ve been working for a long time with Pedrosa and Honda, forming the 125cc and 250cc teams and winning three titles with them. If you refer to Hayden saying that I´m the one who´s in charge or used to be in charge, then he has to understand that in this job and in this paddock, anyone who believes he is in charge of anything is simply wrong. Nobody has control over things or is in charge of anything -results decide everything and put the people in the place they are.´
Nicky won't be with Honda in 2009, but Dani neither reached the goals which were set for him...
`For sure we didn't get the results we expected or that Honda expected this year. It happened to Hayden this year and they eventually got rid of him, and it could also happen to Dani Pedrosa at some point if he doesn´t get the results. For a manufacturer such as Honda, all that counts is getting the title. Any professional rider is aware of this, and like in Hayden´s case, you should know that what makes the difference is not the fact that your crew is doing more or less or saying this and that, but what the rider is able to do on the track every Sunday.´
What do you think the move to a single tyre will mean for Dani, who has already been using Bridgestone tyres for the last few races?
`When we decided to change tyre manufacturer, it was to look for the material that gave the most confidence possible. From my point of view this decision is not one that can be complained about. The races will become more even and there will not be the gap between riders that we have seen in the past few years. Everyone will have the same rubber; it isn´t clear yet what the tyre will be like, but there will be variations, with each rider able to adjust their bike to the available material. On a technical level it has been interesting for us to try out these tyres in 2008, now that we know that they are what will be used next year and have some data to work with over pre-season for fine-tuning the bike.
Finally, in 2009 Dani will have a new teammate, Andrea Dovizioso. What is your view on his signing for Repsol Honda?
`It is a logical step for a rider who has ridden for Honda his entire career, through 125cc, 250cc and MotoGP. He has shown loyalty to the factory, and now he gets a perfect move for him. As for how it will affect us? It really won´t change much and won´t affect our way of working. He will be another rival on the track.´
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