Alvaro Bautista proved his worth abode the factory Ducati with a fine Top 4 finish in MotoGP’s Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island.
Angel Nieto Ducati’s Bautista was announced as Jorge Lorenzo’s replacement for the Australian round alongside Andrea Dovizioso with Karel Abraham riding Bautista’s bike while Mike Jones abode Abraham’s machinery for the weekend.
It wasn’t an easy debut for Bautista on the Desmosedici GP18 as he fell three times before the Sunday’s race as adapting to the new gearbox proved to be the biggest challenge for the Spaniard in the one-off round.
For the race, Bautista had an average start as he dropped places on the opening lap. However, like it has been this season, he came alive in the middle stages and soon found himself in the fight for the podium.
He ran as high as second while battling teammate Andrea Dovizioso, Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone and also Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, Suzuki’s Alex Rins and Pramac Racing Ducati’s Jack Miller at one stage.
He looked good for a podium but for a mistake with the gearbox with two laps remaining which meant he fell off from the tail of Iannone and Dovizioso. But it still was a good run in fourth as he registered his best result of 2018.
The Spaniard also helped Ducati to stay in contention for the manufacturers’ title against Honda while also stay in the hunt for the teams’ title against Honda and Yamaha. “It was an enjoyable race because I could be with the front group, fighting for the podium.
“At the beginning, it was hard because we were a big group and there was some contact with other riders and we saw a scary crash with Zarco and Marquez. When the group was more of a line, I was able to stay with the front guys.
“I was fighting for the podium but with two laps to go I made a mistake with the gearbox again. I struggled all weekend to adapt to the gearbox and with two laps to go I made this mistake and lost distance to Dovizioso and Iannone.
“So, I missed that chance to fight for the podium. In any case, I feel really happy. It was not easy because after the three crashes over the weekend, the confidence isn’t high, but I managed the situation and could ride a good race. I’m so happy.
“Thank you to Ducati for this chance. It’s not easy to just have one weekend with a new bike and new team and be fighting for the podium in the race. Ducati is fighting to be the best factory in the Championship now.
“That’s what they wanted from me, so I tried to do my best and everybody was successful,” he explained, as he now prepares for the Malaysian Grand Prix next week at Sepang abode his usual Angel Nieto’s Desmosedici GP17.
Dovizioso was also at praise for Bautista, stating that he was not surprised with his performance as he always put him in the ‘top rider’ bracket ever since the 250cc days. The Italian was happy that Bautista got his chance finally on a factory machinery.
Meanwhile, Bautista’s fellow Ducati rider Miller revealed in his column that the Italian manufacturer had the Australian ready for his home round but changed the plans after Miller’s crash in Motegi which hampered the independent teams’ standings.