Alvaro Bautista is a much happier man than he has been for a few years. Now a factory rider once again, he has found new motivation, despite knowing that there is along road ahead to make the Aprilia RS-GP a competitive machine. At the official launch of Aprilia's MotoGP, World Superbike and FIM Superstock projects in Milan, I spoke to Bautista about the progress Aprilia have made during testing, his experience of the bike so far, and his expectations for 2015.
Q: How has the progress been between the two tests?
Alvaro Bautista: Progress is quite good. Not a big step, but we did a step forward. Especially on the electronics, because the first test, the electronics were a bit inconsistent. So we spent one day just to adjust the electronics. Still it's not perfect, but we did a small improvement. Then once we decided the frame we will race for the start of the season, we already decided this in the first test. On the second day of the last test we tried different settings of the bike, we changed basically all of the bike to see if something is good or not, or what can help us or not. So it was not really a good day, because we didn't find anything, but we had to try. In the last day, it was good because we started with our base setting, then we make a long run. I was quite happy because I did it in the worst conditions, it was 3pm, so it was hot conditions, but I felt so good. The rhythm was quite good. My feeling on the bike on the long run was comfortable. So I think the only real step we did was with the electronics.
Q: What are the strengths and weakness of the bike?
AB: I think the strongest point is the manageability. It's so easy to ride. And the point we have to improve is basically everything, electronics, frame. We have to improve on the engine, because also we need more power, especially in fourth, fifth and sixth gear. Especially top power. There is not a big problem anywhere, just lots of small ones.
Q: Which frame exactly did you use? There was a 2015 frame at Sepang 1, and a frame you tested at Valencia?
AB: We chose the same frame I used at the Valencia and Jerez tests last year, because the first test, they brought a new spec, but it didn't work.
Q: What was wrong with it?
AB: No turning, no feeling, no grip. So everything... What was the problem? The frame was the problem! [laughs]
Q: Is it a good feeling to be a factory rider again?
AB: For sure! Because all my requests, they work to give me them. For me, it has been a strong point to decide to come here, because I can develop the bike myself, with my requests.
Q: But you know that you won't be able to win this year...
AB: I know!
Q: It means you will have to be patient for a whole year while the bike is developed. Are you willing to invest the time needed?
AB: Yes, I'm ready for that. I'm prepared for this year, I know that we will have good moments, but also more bad moments. But anyway, my target is to go back to winning, and I know that in 2015, it will not be possible. But maybe in 2016, if we make a good job this year and we can make a competitive bike for next year. With the rule change for next year, I think it's an opportunity for us to be in front again.
Q: How does that affect your attitude and your mentality? Because you have to change your mentality from fighting for the best position possible to working on the bike...
AB: Just patience, and knowing exactly what is your position. I know that now, for this year we have no pressure to get the results. This is only good, also because you can stay focused on the development of the bike, you don't have to develop the bike and try to do your best result at the same time. It's only the bike performance that counts.
Q: Do you have any personal objectives for this year? A race or two where you want to do well?
AB: At the moment, I don't think about that. First of all, we have to find a base to start the championship with, because still, our base is not clear. It is still not decided about things like the tank and the seat on the bike, so we have to decide after the Qatar test on the bike to race. Then we will start to think about the results or something. But at the moment, I don't think I would like to finish here or here.