Ducati MotoGP Project Director Alessandro Cicognani picked over the bones of the opening round of the 2012 season in Qatar, after watching factory team riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi finish sixth and tenth respectively.
The duo experienced very different weekends, with Hayden qualifying fifth after finding a set-up on the Desmosedici GP12 that gave the American plenty to be content with. It was the Grand Prix debut of the new 1000cc machine and Hayden battled hard in a group that included Alvaro Bautista, Stefan Bradl and Hector Barbera to come out on top.
Rossi had a less positive outcome, qualifying in 12th and then experiencing some difficulties in the early stages of the race which also saw him run off track and lose positions before fighting back to finish the 22-lap contest in 10th.
Looking back over the weekend and the race, Cicognani said: “For the first race of the season for sure we were expecting a better race. Until Saturday, especially the practice sessions with Nicky, were good.
“We hoped to maintain fifth position, but in the end we took sixth with Nicky and Vale with the problem he had at the beginning was not able to come back. The gap is still big to the front guy and we just have to work hard to get back.
“The most positive thing is that we are not giving up at all. We fight back. Nicky had a hard battle during the race with the other riders fighting with him, and he was able to maintain the position. So we will try, we will work hard and we will do the best we can.”
Hayden was left slightly disappointed at not finishing higher than sixth, but was hugely satisfied with the work put into the bike over the off-season.
“I felt we had the potential to run with Dovizioso and Crutchlow, but considering my injuries and limited testing over the winter, I guess sixth is pretty good,” said the American. “We put some good points on the board, got some data and learned a lot from riding with other people.
“I’m excited for the season. I think if we improve some things, we have the potential to put up some good results. I’d like to thank the team, the sponsors and everybody back at Ducati for all their work, because we’ve clearly taken a step forward since last year.”
Rossi commented on how his race came undone on the opening laps, and said: “Unfortunately, I lost a lot of time in the beginning because when I had new tyres with good grip, the rear pushed a lot, making it very difficult under braking.
“Then Barbera pushed me off the track and I lost five or six seconds. Otherwise, I could have stayed with that group.”
Next up for the pair is the Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez, where Hayden scored a podium finish on the Desmosedici last season.