“I want to enjoy every single minute with Suzuki”

In 2017 you were a rookie in MotoGP. Was this learning year harder than expected?

Yes, of course. When I jumped on the Suzuki for the first time I did not expect to have three injuries in a row. But things in racing, as in life, go like this sometimes. We have learned a lot and we tried to get the best out of the situation. Little by little we were feeling better and better, understanding more about the bike and the category, and finally we were able to enjoy quite a few races.

Which hurt the most; the injuries? Or the fact that you were not able to advance, progress, and learn all about this difficult category?

Honestly both things did hurt a lot. My back injury in Valencia and the arm in Austin were not just silly crashes. When you are out of the business for quite a few races and tests it’s hard to understand the feeling. You want to be on the bike but you can’t. So the only thing we could do was work hard and get back as soon as possible.

The end of the year was very good and in fact at the last race you got your best result, what can we expect from the beginning of 2018 now that you have more experience?

I hope we can try to continue from the same point where we finished last season. In terms of positions you can never say, because you don’t know what the situation is going to be for the other guys. But from our side, I think we have a good package. Working with the team is always a pleasure and I enjoy it a lot, so we can expect anything, but right now I think it’s too early to say.

In regard to the GSX-RR during the season, what has changed from the bike you found at the beginning of 2017, and how much has it improved?

Changes have been happening throughout the season, but honestly I can’t say too much, especially in regard to the beginning of the year, because the injuries did affect our program a lot. Then, as I said, step by step everything was going better, a bit of improvement here and there, and then all together we found it gave us a good package.

In which aspects have you learned very quickly, and which have taken more time? In terms of your improvement as a rider…

This ‘top class’ is quite different. You have to deal with the electronics, the tires .... there are many things that you have to control, but the team always had a clear program and I just had to be patient and follow it, and in the end we started to see a bit of the power and potential we could have.

How has your pre-season been so far, what have you spent the most time working on?

The winter has been very nice. Finally I had a ‘normal’ pre-season without any nasty surprises. I could work in the gym, train with the MX and Dirt Track bikes, go swimming and cross country skiing. I have enjoyed it a lot, and I had the chance to get into a good mood.

Do you think that in 2018 you will have more pressure to achieve results or, on the contrary, will you take it as another year to learn and adapt to the category?

Honestly, it’s never just a learning year - no rider can say that! Because I always want to give my best, and it’s never enough until you reach the top. But every season has ups and downs, and the most important thing is to have the capability to deal with it. I’m sure that we all can go ahead together and have a good season. But in terms of pressure, I don’t feel it, it’s something that some how we are used to dealing with.

In what ways could a friendly rivalry with your team-mate, Andrea Iannone, help TEAM SUZUKI ECSTART to grow?

Well, the important thing is that Andrea and I have a good relationship. Andrea is fast and this helps a lot. Also he has a lot of experience in the category. That’s important for all of us as we carry on with the development of the bike.

What are your goals for this 2018 season?

To enjoy this great opportunity of racing a Suzuki in the MotoGP Championship. I really want to enjoy every single minute, and then the racing will take us to where we deserve to be.