CALLING it a disappointing outing for Jorge Lorenzo would be an understatement.
The three-time world champion was not among the hot favourites in Qatar to start with after his troubles in qualifying and before that in pre-season testing, but the 29-year-old surely would have nurtured hopes of a better performance than this at one of his favourite hunting grounds.
But it was not to be and Lorenzo, starting 12th on the grid, just about managed to improve by one position in his debut race for Ducati.
“This wasn’t the dream debut. Circumstances didn’t help this time in Qatar and it wasn’t the ideal conditions to make a debut,” said Lorenzo.
“The start was very good, I recovered three or four positions, I was behind Valentino (Rossi) (at one point).
“I did five or six laps very close, or sometimes faster than the top guys,” he added. “But in a lot of moments in the race, I was too slow to finish closer. So circumstances didn’t help, but also to be honest, I’m not yet ready to fight for something big,” he said.
That admission was a far cry from last season’s opener in Losail, where Lorenzo, on his Yamaha, started from the pole and went on to win without batting an eye.
A lot have changed in the grid since then, the most important of them being Maverick Vinales joining from Suzuki to take the place of Lorenzo, who left Yamaha after riding all his eight years in MotoGP for the Japanese team.
Asked at the post-race media conference whether Lorenzo was a title contender, Vinales, still beaming after his debut victory, said the former world champion could not be ruled out.
“For sure not, because there’re many races left. He can find the right set-up, he can find the win,” said Vinales. “Lorenzo is a very motivated rider and it’s very difficult to beat him. It’s just the first race, so he still can be in it. At least I don’t think he has no chance to win the championship.”
Ducati team-mate Andrea Dovizioso opined Lorenzo had time to make things happen.
“He has two years in front of him (at Ducati), so anything can happen. For sure, he didn’t start in a perfect way, but he has time to change a lot of things,” said Dovizioso.
And Rossi said his former team-mate was one of the best.
“Everybody knows Lorenzo is a great rider. He’s one of the best and a great talent. So I think he can manage and can improve during the season,” said Rossi.
However, it is doubtful whether any of them seriously considers Lorenzo as a championship contender this season.
Ducati have been considered by many in the past as a relatively difficult bike to ride. Rossi was with them for two years after making a switch in 2011 and it yielded the most unproductive years of the Italian’s career.
But they are a much improved team now, with Dovizioso providing a perfect example of their capabilities with a second-place finish last week. Ducati MotoGP Sporting Director Paolo Ciabatti had said their new bike was made for Lorenzo’s smooth riding style.
Lorenzo himself was banking on the positives.
“We’ve to learn a lot of things and we take the positives. The start was good, we finished the race and we took five points when some others that were faster crashed. So no injuries, no crashes, this is the positive thing,” Lorenzo said. “Now we’ve one more test in Jerez, so for sure we’re going to be better and try new things that probably give us more speed. And little by little, we understand the way to be fast in all conditions.”
But in all probability, with Vinales off to a sensational start, with world champion Marc Marquez looking to continue his domination and Rossi refusing to go out of the limelight, Lorenzo would do well to avoid disappointment becoming his theme for the season.