It’s Thursday at the Italian Grand Prix and there's a noticeable spring in the step of Alberto Giribuola as he walked out of the back of the Gresini Racing garage. He's back in the paddock for the first time since sharing a shoey on the top step of the Le Mans podium and rumours are now swirling that his rider, Enea Bastiainini, will be lining up alongside Pecco Bagnaia next season.
Those rumours have now turned to fact with the Bologna factory's decision to promote Bastiaini to the Ducati Lenovo Team finally being confirmed on Friday evening. An opportune moment then to take a look back at the interview motogp.com's Jack Appleyard did with The Beast’s right-hand man to get an insight into what we can expect when the 24-year-old dons the famous Ducati red in 2023.
Results took a somewhat downward spiral from Mugello to the start of the summer break - 11 points from a possible 100 to be precise. However, a valiant ride through to fourth with just one wing at Silverstone and a debut MotoGP™ pole in Austria have done enough to secure the Italian a factory ride. But Giribuola’s case for Bastiainini moving to the official squad went beyond the on-track results. Alby, as he’s affectionately known, worked alongside Andrea Dovizioso in the factory team for five seasons and year-on-year he managed to keep Dovi in the fight for the World Championship despite the bike evolving at a frightening rate. And it’s that experience, plus that of Dario Massarin – formerly Dovizioso’s chief electronics engineer and now Bastianini’s – that has Giribuola believing Bastianini will be the perfect fit for the factory squad.
How do Andrea and Enea compare both on-track and off-track?
Off-track they are both really relaxed guys. You can enjoy spending time with them. They are always joking and that’s nice. I'm lucky because I was able to create a good relationship with both of them. When we’re working, if you have a good relationship, you can be much more relaxed, be honest about everything, and that’s important. On track, they are both really good in braking, so with our bike that helps a lot because our bike is really good in braking and in acceleration. With their style, they can really take out the maximum from our bike. Their style in braking is similar but a little bit different. The tyre has obviously changed a lot in the last few years, so it's difficult to really compare Andrea and Enea’s braking, but Enea is using both tyres whilst Andrea used the front tyre and would slide the rear. Exiting the corner, Enea probably uses his body a bit more. He really gets off the bike sometimes, it's impressive. But both are able to save the tyre for the last part of the race. Their pace is always good at the end.
Do you think Enea has the best throttle control on the grid and is that his best quality?
Yeah, I think Enea can stay at the limit of the grip without spinning the rear. He takes out the maximum in acceleration, but at the end of the race he still has 10 to 15% more compared to the others. Last year, sometimes there was a limit for him because he was not able to push at the maximum, like in qualifying because you have to ride in a way that’s not good for the race but is good for one lap. So, he was at the limit. This year he’s able to switch when it's time for qualifying. We saw immediately something special from him since the Qatar Test last year. His confidence with the front, the feeling he has with the front tyre in the last part of entering the corner, he can really gain a lot in comparison to the other riders. He carries a lot of speed into the corner but then he’s able to turn, so it's something really special.
How much is the atmosphere within Gresini helping Enea this year?
I think the environment is always a part of any success. Pressure for me is a characteristic of the rider and Enea doesn't feel the pressure. If he goes to the official team, I think he can handle it. The important thing is that he feels the people around him are all working for the same goal. We are smiling a lot, working in a relaxed way, which for sure helps him to enjoy the races not like it’s work or a job, but that he’s enjoying it with friends. I think that is what makes the biggest difference.
From your experience, how is the atmosphere different in the factory team?
When you’re in an official team, you have to handle new parts, new things, so it's difficult to decide when to try something and make a proper test and not lose the right way. But this is my job, that’s not something for Enea to think about. I have to find the way to not make a mess but understand which is the way to go and take the right decision.
How important will be not only your experience but the experience of Dario Massarin when Enea moves to the factory team?
For sure Dario and I’s experience in the same official team for many years will help a lot. We’ve been with Ducati for 14 years, so we know the people that we’ll have around us. We can manage in a proper way the stress, the things to test. If we moved to a different official team with another factory, we probably cannot make the difference. But because we have a past with the official Ducati team, we know exactly the people, we know what we have to expect from them, we have a relationship with them, that helps when communicating with them and when trying to find the right way to test items. This is the biggest difference: our past.
Why is that past relationship so important?
The important things are that the rider has to be concentrated on riding and enjoying the weekend. We also have to develop the bike but there is a good time to develop and a good time to try and get a race result. In the past with Andrea, I think we found a good balance with that, so that made us able to achieve good results, especially in 2017 and 2018. The bike was changing a lot in those years, but we always took the right decision on what to test and what to put on the bike. For example the winglets. In the beginning, we were not really using the wings because for our equilibrium in that moment, we were losing more with the wings than what we were gaining. We had to change the bike when we put on the winglets and we were not sure about the new set-up with them. With time we found good pace with the wings and then we switched. Sometimes the people from the factory can look at it and can think: ‘They don't want to improve, they don't want to make tests, they don't want to work’. But it's not that, it's just that you have to make a step when you are really sure that something can help you go faster and not just because it says it on paper. The wings were like that, on paper they were performing more but if the rider is not able to take out the maximum from them then you cannot go faster.
So, is your confidence and ability to say no the thing that will help Enea the most in the factory team?
They already know me, so they know that I'm difficult. They expect it and they are prepared. I know them, I know how to explain my reasons and find the good compromise to make an evolution or a step. It’s a difficult equilibrium that you have to find. There is a lot of respect between me, Gigi, Davide and Paolo, so our past I think would help a lot.
Could Enea cause Pecco some problems in the factory team?
Our target is not to annoy someone else; our target is just to win the Championship. It always depends on what the other riders think of Enea. When Andrea [Dovizioso] saw Jorge Lorenzo joining our garage, in the beginning it was like ‘oh my God, this is a multiple-time world champion and he’s in our garage’ but then we just focused on our job. I said to Andrea: ‘We have everything that we need to be as fast as him or be faster than him, so it’s not a problem’. In the end we were faster, so pressure is something that you put in your mind. I think for us if we go there, we’ll try our best and then if it’s that a problem for Pecco… well, Pecco will handle it. I think he has a good team, he has a good mind, he has a good past achieving a lot of good results, so I don't think in the end he will be under that much pressure.