Andrea Dovizioso is apparently emulating fellow Italian MotoGP veteran Valentino Rossi’s approach to retirement – admitting at this week’s RNF Yamaha launch that his future aspirations in the sport largely depend on how the 2022 season plays out.
Echoing thoughts shared by Rossi ahead of his own decision to retire at the end of 2021, Dovizioso says what happens next is dictated by him having more fun than anything else.
Dovizioso returns to MotoGP full-time this season after a six-month absence in 2021.
After failing to renew his contract with Ducati, he instead opted for a sabbatical which ended in the middle of last year when Maverick Vinales dramatically left the factory Yamaha team, who then went on to promote Franco Morbidelli and created space for Dovizioso in the then Petronas Yamaha satellite team. .
Returning for the final five races of the season and scoring a best finish of 12th as he readjusted to the Yamaha after eight years on Ducatis, he quickly signed up for resurgent team RNF Racing for 2022 on a contract of one year which means his presence in MotoGP is only guaranteed until the end of the season.
He therefore enters this year not knowing exactly where his future lies, despite the hopes and dreams of team boss Razlan Razali, who insists Dovizioso will challenge for the title.
Instead, the Italian has played down those aspirations, admitting he doesn’t yet know where his level will be at the start of the new season – but well aware that his performances will determine his future.
“It’s been a strange year, this last year, and it will be a strange year this year too,” he said during the team presentation, “because I haven’t [long-term] program. It’s the reality, and it’s not because I don’t want to talk about it.
“I’m really living this season as if it’s my last season because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Everything is always linked to the result, and if the result will be very good it’s not a problem! If the result is not so good, it is.
“I’m really relaxed about it and I’m taking the season as if it were the last, not because it will change my approach – it’s not something you can decide – but because I’m completely relaxed in this situation.
“I don’t have a contract for next year, but I don’t want a contract right now because I don’t know what I would like to do.
“For sure it’s all about the result, because if you’re fast you appreciate it and if you’re not fast you’re not, especially at this point in my career. is why I am totally relaxed.
While Dovizioso – who turns 36 this season – has effectively replaced Rossi as the team’s “veteran” driver and oldest statesman on the grid, there is a major difference in that the The latter’s fate was firmly in his hands. It wouldn’t have been difficult for Rossi to stay on the MotoGP grid this year had he chosen to continue, not least because he has his own team in the premier class.
Dovizioso, however, probably doesn’t have that luxury. For one thing, the exact identity of the Yamaha satellite team in 2023 is unknown, with RNF currently only having a one-year contract. And there is ongoing speculation that Yamaha hopes to poach Raul Fernandez from KTM, and Yamaha World Superbike Champion Toprak Razgatlioglu has made his ambitions of a MotoGP switch a secret.
That might leave no room for Dovizioso even if he takes advantage of his return to MotoGP, and his options are likely to be non-existent elsewhere.
But there’s one thing he’s sure of – that not knowing how long he has left on the grid means that despite the challenges of the year ahead, he can’t rest on his laurels and use 2022 to finish. the learning process on the Yamaha but instead must fire on all cylinders no matter the circumstances.
“I’m working to try to adapt to this bike because it’s so different,” Dovizioso told MotoGP.com. “I finished the season in a good situation with a good feeling, but still not wonderful – and that’s what we have to achieve in pre-season.
“We will only have two days [of Sepang testing]not three like in the past, but we have to use Malaysia test in the best way.
And when it came to his team’s stated goal of challenging for the title, he acknowledged that was “the reality” despite his own uncertainty about whether the performance will be enough.
“I don’t know if it will be possible, but… I have a factory bike, that means you have to fight for the championship,” he said with a laugh. “Let’s see how the test goes.”