Valentino Rossi’s MotoGP Era of Team ‘Left a lot of Wounds’: Ducati
Paolo Ciabatti, Ducati MotoGP boss says that marque’s path for the 2022 title ‘was not easy’ as the Valentino Rossi era of the team ‘left a lot of wounds.’
In the last weekend’s season finale, Francesco Bagnaia concluded a 15-year wait for Ducati by beating Fabio Quartararo to the MotoGP title by 17 points.
It became a hard-fought turnaround in fortunes between its first title in 2007 and 2022. Although hitting its nadir in 2011/2012, Ducati could not succeed with MotoGP legend Rossi. The Italian scored three podiums across two seasons before returning to Yamaha.
Sporting director Ciabatti, speaking exclusively to Autosport after Bagnaia's title win, admitted he returned to the company in mid-2013 due to Ducati's difficulties, noting the challenges Ducati faced. He says that the Rossi era of the marque left him under ‘extreme pressure.’
When asked about the symbolic nature of Bagnaia’s title, Ciabatti said that when he came to Ducati in 2013, only a few months have passed before Audi take over the company from the previous owner ‘Investindustrial.’ They made some changes. The essential change was Filippo Prezioso. He decided to leave after two difficult years with great expectations of the Valentino/Ducati partnership. It did not bring the expected results.
This change left a lot of wounds in the organization and at many levels. Usually, when everything is going alright, personal problems between people can be managed effortlessly. However, when that person goes completely wrong and you are under extreme pressure from the press, partners, and sponsors, it is impossible to make results. Some people put the blame on somebody else, destroying the team and the group altogether.
He adds that when he came back to Ducati, this is an extreme situation, making us let some people go by the end of 2013. He said that if he look back at 2013, he honestly wanted to quit halfway through the season as the team was going nowhere. With Valentino, Ducati witnessed two non-successful years and then they had Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden. But, with them, their struggle did not conclude. They have to face negative media who say that they are going nowhere. He said that they were true at specific points as they do not have clear technical direction.
Fortunately, the support of CEO Claudio Domenicali helped them a lot. Ciabatti said that he know him for 20 years and spoke openly to him and said this is a situation where we are going nowhere, and if it keeps like this it’s going to be so negative for the image of the company.
Ciabatti is credited with bringing in engineering genius Gigi Dal Igna from April 2013 to late 2013 to begin Ducati's turnaround. He said that they must do something and needs to be someone capable of managing a technically complex project like MotoGP.
Domenicali also managed to convince Gigi to leave Aprilia and since then everything is going well for Ducati. It was also arduous as Ducati is not big as the Japanese, so they have to rely on sponsorship and partnership. At that point, it is even more arduous to find people who wanted to invest in the company. Because of Valentino, they were ready to support acquiring the best possible coverage. However, since they did not succeed, rebuilding this credibility become difficult. Only results can build it again.
Even after promising the investors, they have a non-successful background, which makes it hard to convince people. Hence, it was not that easy. These past ten years were incredibly great things.