Off To A Poor Start: Where It All Went Wrong For Ducati In Qatar

Fortunes in MotoGP can change fast. Before the opening weekend of the 2022 MotoGP season, Pecco Bagnaia was the most tipped rider to take the title, the Ducati GP22 was the hot bike to have. The question was not whether a Ducati would win one of the early races, but rather which one, and how many Ducatis would end up on the podium at them.

That prediction turned out to be accurate, but not in the way those making it expected. Enea Bastianini rode an outstanding race in Qatar to win the first race of 2022, and the first for the Gresini squad since Toni Elias back at Estoril in 2006. A Ducati stood on the top step of the podium, as expected. Only it was a satellite rider on a year-old bike, Bastianini riding a Ducati GP21.

The riders on a GP22 had a thoroughly miserable night. Jack Miller was forced to retire when the electronics on his bike got confused by which timing loop was where and started using the wrong power map. Pecco Bagnaia lost the front going into Turn 1 as he was trying to pass Jorge Martin, the Lenovo factory rider taking out the Pramac satellite man. Johann Zarco caught the struggling Fabio Quartararo on the run to the checkered flag on the very last lap, to grab a mediocre 8th spot. And Luca Marini battled his bike home to a handful of points in 13th.

The results were doubly disappointing because qualifying had been so promising. Jorge Martin took pole on the Pramac bike, Jack Miller lined up at the head of the second row in 4th, and Pecco Bagnaia's 9th spot on the grid came with much frustration, the Italian complaining of spending too much time still testing during practice.

Where did it all go wrong for Ducati? The problem is brought into stark contrast by watching the start of the race from the helicopter view. While the Hondas, KTMs, Suzukis leap forward off the line, the Ducatis are nowhere. The GP22 is sluggish off the line and completely lacks drive compared to the other bikes.

That lack of acceleration has taken a heavy toll on the newest version of the Ducati Desmosedici by the first corner. Jorge Martin qualified on pole, but enters Turn 1 down in 6th. Jack Miller drops from 4th to 8th, while Lenovo Ducati teammate Pecco Bagnaia slumps from 9th to 15th. Further back, Johann Zarco drops from 13th to 16th, while Luca Marini, who had qualified way down in 17th, had lost two places to enter Turn 1 in 19th.

Riders of a Ducati GP22 lost four places on average just on the run into the first corner. They went from leading the pack to being stuck in traffic.

Contrast that with the Hondas, for example. Marc Marquez went from 3rd on the grid to enter Turn 1 in first position, though he subsequently ran wide and let Repsol Honda teammate Pol Espargaro through into the lead. Espargaro had started 6th, and approached Turn 1 in 2nd. Further back, Takaaki Nakagami started 16th and passed a bunch of riders to enter Turn in 12th, while LCR teammate jumped from 18th on the grid to 14th. Where the Ducatis had lost four places off the start, the Hondas had found them.

The problem was also restricted to the riders on a GP22. Enea Bastianini, the only non-rookie on a Ducati GP21, got a great start from the front row, entering Turn 1 right behind the Hondas of Espargaro and Marquez. The GP21 jumped off the line, where the GP22 seemed to get bogged down and go backward.

Why is the GP22 such a poor starter? The most obvious culprit would have to be the most significant change to the bike since last year: the front ride-height device. The system of locking the device is different, the latch having been moved to accommodate the cylinder lowering the front. But given Johann Zarco's difficult getting the front device locked on the grid, it seems unlikely this was the cause.

Rather more worrying is that where the Ducati seemed to lose acceleration was after the initial surge off the line. Where their rivals picked up speed as they changed up to second, third, and fourth, the Ducatis seemed to stall. That additional drive as they hit peak power was lacking, uncharacteristically for Ducati.

Drive to survive

That lack of acceleration was largely alleviated once the race got underway. But even then, the Ducati's drive was rather lackluster. Watching the bikes streaming onto the front straight via the helicopter view shows Jorge Martin gaining no ground on Aleix Espargaro's Aprilia RS-GP ahead of him, and the other Ducatis behind him in the same situation. The Ducati was slow to build a head of steam down the front straight, normally the point where the bike is strongest.

Is this an issue with the engine? Given that the factory riders were using an uprated version of the GP21 engine, and the Pramac riders the GP22 engine rejected by the factory team, it seems more likely the issue lies with changes to the geometry of the bike and to the electronics being used. The lack of a base setup is coming back to hurt them.

Which is where Pecco Bagnaia's complaints make sense. "If you look, you see all the new Ducatis have started so badly," the Italian said after the race. "We lost a lot of position. I was 16th in Turn 3. So it was not the best start for sure, then I started to push to recover positions."

But too much time spent testing new parts and a lack of time on setup cost Ducati dearly, Bagnaia felt. "We finished our work in FP3, and this is not possible for me, it's not great. My feeling was back in FP4, but just because we decided [on bike setting]. So from that point, we never touched the bike again, until this morning when I was riding and I felt that I was not ready for the race. Because I was a bit faster, but the electronics and the setting of the bike was not good for the grip and for the track. So we have done something for the race, but we were behind."

Ducati's problems sound fixable, but they will need time on track. Preferably a track which is a known quantity, but the next three circuits are all something of an anomaly. MotoGP has only seen Mandalika at the test a month ago, and the track has been partially resurfaced since then. Argentina is up next, a circuit which sees little use and tends to be dusty and dirty on the first day. Then Austin, which again has been partially resurfaced and features a unique layout. When you are looking for a base setup, you want as few variables as possible, but this opening section of the season is full of wildcards.

Ducati is still on paper the factory in the strongest position to win the championship this year. But they have made the job a great deal more difficult for themselves as a result of the ambitions they had.

 


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Source: 
year: 
2022
round_number: 
1

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Comments

If it was not a simple case of misadjusting something which will go away by the next race, then it could perhaps be a case of 'the smart bird getting caught by its beak', as the Greeks say (a proverb also of Azerbaijan, I've just been told). Often, overkill brings along unforeseen complications. I wish they overcome fast whatever hindrances they face, and win at last the championship, they deserve it.

We always say to not take the first race of the season too seriously, but yeah that was a real bad showing at a track they traditionally go quite well at. I have no doubt they can get back to where they should be, but the timescale of that is unknown. It could end up being too late too, for all we know.

Unrelated, but praise to the Power That Be down at Amazon for removing the forced audio dubbing from MotoGP Unlimited. Can't wait to finally give it a go!

Simple answer for me? Not enough time dialing in the electronics w the engine and the evolved 2020--> bike.

Why extrapolate anything else? This bike is fantastic and got off the 2022 line slow. It is about to rip again. 

The dire forecast is Yamaha. Everyone else looks good from here. Especially Honda and KTM. 

I'm not ready to throw in the white towel on Quartararo and Yamaha. They can still cure the rear grip issues. And that combined with an upgraded aero and they can be back in business with front row starts.

The irony of Dovizioso's story. All those years at Ducati asking for more corner speed. Now that he's on a high corner speed bike, he's having difficulty adapting his style to the style that the bike needs to be ridden.

Juicy season!

Exactly. One the one hand it's only race one, Ducati will come good and on the other hand Yamaha is doomed, yet it's only race one. The Ducati software issue has plagued them through both tests and race one. In other words, it's not software but software is the most immediate tape at hand. They're not slow, over one lap.

It's not only race one, it's Losail which has always been a bit of weird track. There's a long story yet to be told.

I believe Jarvis and Quartararo too. I also believe the three veteran Yamaha riders that, at one time or another this pre-season and season, all pointed to rear grip being the most important issue. Quarty's bike can be seen getting all out of shape with the rear end moving around when he is pushing hard. If they can improve that, his times can improve. Grip issues at the track? Harder tires? The circumstances this weekend may help them find a direction to a solution.

Mandalika!

^ Agreed Peter. "Regular" grip levels are helpful for Blue. So is not having a huge straight w this big aero and F tire pressure stuff. Quarty has had a hell of a time getting anything but the soft rear working. We have huge question marks!

Enjoy!!! I am still quite fired up about this particular season. The riders have to be too...21 bloody times.

Sure, I believe them too but they aren't saying...we can't win. The results will tell the tale of the slow bike. The whole reason I counter the 'red wave' with Yamaha is because none of it is certain.

I thought last season was crackers. Now this season looks to better that. Can it get any better? More revisited/new tracks. More new (young) riders. Loved him but VR who? 

^ Amen brother 2StrokeSmoke!

:)

No complaints. Got good at pulling the bones out of our tasty fish back in the shiter eras. Since 2017 I feel like I'm in motorbike heaven. 

Jarvis just said "(at Qatar) our Japanese engineers failed to achieve the necessary increase in engine performance." And "We had an excessive tyre pressure at the front. That was from our aero."

One of these two is slated for improvement. "We may need smaller wings. At Mugello would be a good time for the aero update."

Quarty just said he thinks this Round will go better than last since there isn't such a long straight. But that "the real Yamaha is the one you saw in Qatar. I mean I don’t think or have not heard about something new, so this is the real Yamaha."

Things are quickly changing. I think right now Pink Piranha has the best bike on the grid. This track takes some handling and some balls. The tires are going to be different than the test, same compounds but different carcass. The updated one meant to disperse heat better. The soft was popular, medium tougher to work with for some (esp Blue) but most expected it not to work for the race, right? Rubber will be going down and targets will be moving. Quarty could have race pace to do ok at Mandalika if the new M tire can work for him or the S makes the distance.

Watching Indonesian fan video from today at the track. Pretty 2nd World dumpy infrastructure around the track. But they have gotten a lot in place! Looks pretty good. Lots of scrubbing/pressure washing has been going on. 

Re silly season, Jarvis just said "Fabio knows the package he has for the coming season. What interests him is the package he will get at Yamaha for 2023 and 2024. I think we need to take some time. We've taken some of the pressure off now. We no longer exercise any time pressure."

"We are monitoring the situation and hope that Fabio will trust us and continue to ride for Yamaha in the future."

(Quarty is working at signing at Duc or Honda. Blue is waiting at home no matter how long he is away no matter the lipstick marks and bar tabs. They are not married, no kids, just rent the place and he paid all the bills last yr)

Make them random, you can't see what's in the water, just a sense of dread. Pink umbrella adds a touch of sophistication covering for the fact that it's just a vehicle of doom.

^ Hiya! I am w Brian that Suzuki could be in the spotlight this wknd.

"Pink Piranha" = Bastiannini (look at his pitboard and helmet, new this yr)

Best one-liner of the season so far Wavey, good on ya.

Pecco and Jorge can just be thankful that Marquez had a rather mediocre finishing position by MM standards. The start doesn't matter at all when you fail to finish.

Looking forward to the next race!

Where is Pirro? First the duff motor and electronics, and now the soft/auto shapeshifter. All removed from the factory bikes. Folks wondered if 8 bikes would spread the factory too thin. I think we see the answer. Can't believe Ducati is willing to sacrafice this year, but what a boner...