The Spaniard was speaking on Thursday at Sepang as he prepared for his first MotoGP™ appearance in five years
Two weeks after securing his second MOTUL FIM Superbike World Championship title, Alvaro Bautista (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati) is back on track. The #1 is gearing up for a wildcard at the Malaysian Grand Prix for his first MotoGP™ race in five years, taking to the track on the Ducati Desmosedici GP. It’s a bike he has tested occasionally throughout 2023 but he will now get to race it as he returns to the Grand Prix paddock and, ahead of this, he revealed his goals for the weekend and the biggest challenges he’ll face.
PLAYING DOWN EXPECTATIONS: “the level of the category is so high and so close”
While there has been some talk about great results for Bautista, the Spaniard was keen to minimise what can be expected of him this weekend. With it being his first appearance since the end of the 2018 season, Bautista made clear was to have fun and score the best possible result he can, but he didn’t set out a clear target for himself; instead hoping to be able to enjoy himself.
Discussing his wildcard and expectations, he said: “I’m so happy to defend the title with the #1 but now we are in MotoGP™ for this weekend. I’m so excited to race here at Sepang. It’s one of my favourite tracks and I miss this track. It’ll be really nice to come back and do laps with the MotoGP™ bike. To race again in MotoGP™ will be nice, especially with this new format with the Sprint on Saturday and then the race on Sunday. I don’t have any expectations about the result because the level of the category is so high and so close. Even if you are not so far away with the lap time, in positions you are a bit far. For me, the target is trying to find good confidence with the bike, try to enjoy and do a weekend from less to more. The main thing is trying to have fun and try to do my best.”
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “there’s not too much time to get a good feeling”
Since 2018, Bautista has raced exclusively in WorldSBK, switching between Ducati machinery (2019, 2022-2023) and Honda (2020-2021). He has got his hands on the Desmosedici GP this year on a couple of occasions, once as a prize for his 2022 WorldSBK title and once stepping in for the injured Michelle Pirro. However, the double Champion revealed he thought his biggest challenge would be setting the bike up and getting a good feeling.
Expanding on the challenges he faces, Bautista said: “I think the biggest challenge is maybe to keep the other people calm who maybe think I can win or get a podium because many people are creating a lot of really high expectations! Keep calm and there’s no pressure on me to have a good result or try to repeat like other riders in the past did. This is the case, and I will try to have some fun. It’ll be important to find a good setup with the bike and to give my best. I think this will be the biggest challenge because we don’t have a lot of time, we have two Free Practices and there’s not too much time to get a good feeling. If I can finish the weekend better than I started, it’ll be nice. If I feel that I give my best and I have a good feeling with the bike, I finish the race saying, ‘this was the best performance I can do with the time we had during the weekend’.”
WHY SEPANG? “it’s a track I can enjoy riding the bike at”
The reigning Champion also discussed why he and the team opted to wildcard at Sepang instead of any other circuits. With three MotoGP™ races taking place after the WorldSBK campaign finished, the choices were limited but Bautista revealed why they went for Malaysia. He said: “This kind of track with the long corners and fast corners suit me very well due to my riding style. I decided to come here because it had to be a race after my Championship ends, so it was only Sepang, Qatar or Valencia. I just tried to push Ducati and Aruba to come to Sepang and they accepted. Aside from the track, the weather is also good; I prefer the hot conditions. It’s a track I can enjoy riding the bike at.”
Follow coverage of Bautista’s wildcard throughout the weekend using the WorldSBK VideoPass!