Joan Mir went on vacation with three podiums in eight races and 55 points behind the championship leader, Fabio Quartararo. The Suzuki rider will have to make the biggest comeback in MotoGP history if he wants to retain the title. For now, he says that the year has not gone badly, although it could have gone better. And Hamamatsu improvements are entrusted to repeat.
Question: How do you reflect on the season so far? I guess it hasn’t gone as planned after what happened in 2020
Answer : Yes, well, it hasn’t gone too bad, but for sure below expectations because I expected a little more after the potential we showed – especially the bike – last year, I expected to be much more competitive. It is true that this is racing, it is really unpredictable and it is always difficult. For my part I always give 100% and Germany was probably the worst race of the whole season because the tires were different, normally that track should fit well. After Germany I was a bit disappointed because I expected more, I expected to be much more competitive and we were a bit far behind our rivals. But it is true that the season is not over, Suzuki is working hard to try to build something that works better and make some evolution on the bike that I think is necessary. They are working pretty hard.
Q. You have noticed that the bike has not improved since 2020, why is that? Do you think Suzuki has been more affected by the development freeze than its rivals?
A: Well, I think freezing evolution doesn’t help us, but it doesn’t make it worse because it’s true that if evolution didn’t freeze, we could have improved the engine. But the others could also improve it. So I think it’s more that they haven’t found a big step to improve the bike this winter. I think that is the real problem. Normally, Suzuki’s philosophy is a philosophy that I share, because they don’t usually bring new bikes. In the pre-season tests, you see Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, also Aprilia, KTM with different bikes. And Suzuki normally never brings in a new bike. They bring a new chassis, a new swingarm, a new engine, step by step and progressively try to take a step on the bike. So usually that works, but you have to bring a few things. Also, I have to say that I did not expect such an improvement from the other manufacturers. I did not expect. Suzuki probably doesn’t either. That makes it probably a bit more difficult.
Q. It has been suggested that the team this year is not as close as last year. Has Brivio’s departure had a greater effect on Suzuki’s 2021 season than expected, or than he is willing to admit?
A: I don’t think so. I think Davide for sure was doing a super job here at Suzuki. But I think it’s more like what I said: they haven’t been able to find an improvement, a technical improvement, a big step like the others. That is not to say that Suzuki is not working: they are working. And Davide wasn’t the one making the specifications. So, in this case, I think it is more that they have to keep improving and all because we have seen that the others have done better.
Q. Having said that, one of the things Davide was good at was bridging the gap between the racing team and Japan. Do you think if he was still here they would get the updates they need faster, especially the holeshot ?
A: I don’t know. I think the Japanese know very well what we need and I think they are putting pressure on each other. I don’t think [updates were done faster with Brivio], but I’m sure a bigger push helps. But I think they are doing it.
Q. Shinichi Sahara, Suzuki project leader, told Motorsport.com that they don’t need a replacement for Davide at the moment. Are you happy with that?
A: Well, I trust Sahara a lot and honestly if he does that it’s because it’s the right thing to do. He is the one who directs everything now, he is inside the project and can see all the problems. Surely if he says something like that, it’s for a reason.
Q. This is your first season in MotoGP as champion. How have you felt with that responsibility? Do you feel different?
A: No, I think that every year is the same and every year we start from scratch, you have to make your championship. It is true that you are one of the best MotoGP riders and I am sure that people are aware of you, of what you do, of your rivals and others, of some riders who follow you, and this is the biggest difference. But apart from that, I don’t think when I’m on the track ‘OK, I’m the champion’. I separate it very well, I try to make my championship, this year is a new one and for me now I am not the champion. Yes, at the end of the season I said ‘I won in 2020, let’s see in 2021’, but it’s not something I always have in my head because I think it’s not really productive if you’re champion and you don’t push, because you’ll never be champion again.
I’m quite a different character and I don’t need the media
P. One of the things that does seem different now that you are champion is that your words come out much more in the media. You said after Barcelona that you felt like a villain for that. Do you think that now that you are champion, people give more importance to what you say?
A: [Laughs] It’s also a disadvantage [of being a champion], because I’m not very media-oriented. I don’t like the fame, I don’t like all this. I just like to ride bikes, do my job, come home and keep training to come back here and try to win again. So I don’t like going to Formula 1 in Monaco or going around to all these things. Of course I would like to go there, but I prefer to do my own thing and be quite private with my life. I’m quite a different character and I don’t need the media, let’s say. It is a different character that people have to respect and not everyone likes fame. It is quite normal.
Q. It’s a fairly novel approach…
A: Yes, when I go to train and that and people recognize you, nothing happens because it is within this world. But if you go to dinner and there are people who recognize you, okay, it’s part of this job and I take it on, but I don’t need it.
I don’t think the other drivers are better than last year
P. You said after Germany that your rivals were being better than Suzuki. Are you referring only to the results or do you see that they are better in other aspects?
A: I don’t think they are doing better than in previous years. Yes, you can be more mature and learn from your mistakes, but I think the important thing is the package you have. Last year with this package I was able to be on the podium in every race. And this year I am not able to do it, so probably the same has happened to the other riders: with the same effort they are able to be closer to the podium and not last year. Therefore, it does not mean that they are better or not. Of course, from the mistakes you improve and you are better. But well, I don’t think they are better than last year.
Q. How confident are you that you can get your title fight back on track in the future?
A: Yes, the key to the season will be the second part. It is important to be as close as possible now because later with the improvements – I think we will improve the bike – we will be closer to them. So for me the strategy is to be as close as possible now and then try to start the second part of the season as a new championship and try to score points. I think we will do well, I am looking forward to the moment. I’m strong, the team wants to get good results, that’s always important. I also want the same and I’m sure it will be difficult because everyone works a lot, but we also work a lot.
Q. Have you been encouraged by what KTM has done, with a small change that has made them move forward?
A: Yes, well, as we have seen in KTM it is a great boost because it shows that by trying the same as Oliveira and Binder did, they are now fighting to win races. So that’s a bit of what we miss. We also start with a disadvantage, which is that everyone came out with a holeshot device and we don’t have this device. So for acceleration right now we are at a disadvantage. So let’s see once we’re all on the same material and Suzuki starts bringing new things to be faster, let’s see where we’ll be. I think we will be strong.