After missing the pre-season Official Test due to Covid-19, it’s fair to say Tatsuki Suzuki and the SIC58 Squadra Corse outfit didn’t have an ideal start to the 2021 campaign. However, a ride to P8 at the chequered flag – from the back of the grid – was a heroic effort from the Japanese rider.
motogp.com caught up with Suzuki and Team Manager Paolo Simoncelli to digest the difficulties at the beginning of the season, and what the future holds.
Q: You've had some intense days recently, can you tell us about what happened?
Paolo Simoncelli: "Ready to go, Tatsu calls me and tells me that he has did the swab and the result is positive. Those days were heavy for me, tense. We were ready, I saw him in great shape, he prepared very well throughout the winter break and all the work done in a moment is in danger of fading away. But then he managed to get to Qatar on time. On Friday It weighed on me to send him on the track because I saw him who was in reserve and an athlete should never be. Then on Saturday he was in the 'Tatsu style' in that mode there, when he recovered on Sunday doing a race as a mature boy, although I think he could have finished sixth at the finish line as well. In any case, he was very good."
Tatsuki Suzuki: "It's been a very bad two weeks. When I started feeling sick physically I immediately hoped that I had not contracted Covid-19 but until I did the swab I had hope and instead... the result was positive. And I immediately feared losing both races in Qatar since they are consecutive. I was worried because some people stayed positive for several weeks and I didn't want to miss championship appointments. During the winter I trained a lot both in the gym and on the bike and this news did not take us. Luckily, I was able to get on the track from day one of the Grand Prix, I wasn't at my best but the important thing was to be there. On the other hand, until the race starts I'm sure I can't take a single point and the important thing for me was to know I could be there to play it. I agree with Paolo, I could have come even further but I still had a good race.”
Q: Tatsu, you waited for the result of another swab that, being negative, allowed you to leave even after the official tests took place. How did you recover the disadvantage from your rivals who had been on track in Doha for three extra days?
Suzuki: "Even if the last swab done in Italy had failed, the concern remained because I would have to do another one in Qatar, wait 24 hours in isolation for a response, before I could be sure to run. Covid-19 left me debilitated, the temperatures were much higher than those that were in Italy and although I always trained during the winter break, I was not as fit as before taking the virus. Then all my rivals had already worked on that track for three days and it wasn't easy."
Simoncelli: "Not having security until the last minute, we brought a reserve, José Julian Garcia, our CEV-engaged rider who eventually found himself taking a few days off in Losail since he could not run,” Paolo says in a joking tone. “The whole team was worried about Tatsu. Having not participated in the test, our rookie Lorenzo Fellon found himself the technical leader at his complete disposal.”
Q: Where were you when the result of the swab came in?
Simoncelli: "We were all in a hotel room where we are staying and when the answer came there was a scream of joy, hugs, emotion and a lot of satisfaction because we all suffered in those days.”
Suzuki: "I made everyone on my team suffer.”
Q: After a strengthless Friday and a complicated Saturday, race day arrived. How was the first Sunday of the year?
Simoncelli: "When I saw that on the first lap it was 17th I immediately thought: ‘Here, things get good!”
Suzuki: "The race was nice. The first one is always special, then it came after a difficult period. I do not know middle ways, last year I took pole position here at Losail and this year from the last available grid slot.”
Simoncelli: "Tatsu has improved a lot. On Sunday he proved to be a real rider. In the past, starting last, he would have given up instead he was really strong, he struggled.”
From P28➡️P8— Tatsuki/Suzuki24 (@TatsukiSuzuki24) March 29, 2021
First GP is done ✅ pic.twitter.com/aQAR9WDFBx
Q: Tatsu, after a spectacular comeback, this Sunday you race again at the same track. Are you back to full fitness, and what are your goals this year?
Suzuki: "The goal is only one: to win the world championship. I believe that with Paolo and with this team we can do it. For three years we have been fighting to win it but a bit of bad luck, some wasted opportunities on my part and not yet conquered it. This year is my last chance to win the Moto3 title.”
Now fully fit, Suzuki, Simoncelli and the rest of the SIC58 Squadra Corse will attack the Tissot Grand Prix of Doha with all their might. The first Moto3™ track action of the weekend begins at 13:50 (GMT+3)!