Sepang. February 5, 2022.- While Suzuki is still trying to finalize the incorporation of a team manager who can fill the gap left by Davide Brivio -the return of the Italian is still seen as a real option today-, Sahara accumulates the job. The Japanese must attend to what happens on the track and how the 2022 prototype evolves, while preparing the offers with which he hopes to convince Joan Mir and Alex Rins to renew the contracts that expire on December 31.
Ask. What aspects of the Suzuki bike have you focused on this winter?
Response. We always try to make the performance of the bike the best globally. It is clear that we are looking for more power from the engine, but that affects the balance of the bike, so we also have to tweak the chassis to adjust that balance.
Q. To what extent is the engine that has been brought here, and which was already tested last year, more powerful than the previous one?
A. This engine revs more at high speeds, with more horsepower, and we have managed to keep it from losing any thrust throughout the power curve. The engineers have done a great job.
Q. The riders agree that, last year, Suzuki realized that the work done was not enough to fight for the title. How are they going to remedy that?
A. Riders are never satisfied with the performance of their bikes. Not just at Suzuki. But that also happens with the engineers, who never have enough. When they reach an objective, a new one is set before them. To answer your question: in the tests in November, in Jerez, we got some very positive signals. And, despite that, here we have brought some more pieces to continue improving.
Q. The contracts of the two pilots expire at the end of the year. What does Suzuki have in mind in that regard?
A. Suzuki wants to keep both Joan and Alex, and we have already told both of them. But, at this point in the year, the most important thing for us is to be able to give them the most competitive bike possible. With her we hope to be able to be candidates for the title again. Right now I’m not focused on negotiations with them, but on the performance of the bike.
Q. In any case, will you be in charge of negotiating with them when the time comes?
A. I cannot guarantee that. Hopefully I’ll be able to answer you soon.
P. At the end of last year, you recognized that combining the position of head of the technical aspect, and also acting as a team manager, was too much for one person. He also said that he would hire a new team manager before the end of the year. Does the fact that we are in the February tests and that operation has not materialized mean that you have changed your mind?
A. No, I haven’t changed my mind. It’s just taking us longer than I imagined or would have liked. We are still negotiating with several candidates, but we have not closed it yet. And I can’t say much more so as not to compromise those involved. But yes, the idea is still to incorporate a team manager.
P. Rins underlines the importance of signing someone for this role, and highlights the good relationship he always had with Davide Brivio, the previous team manager. Brivio is now at Alpine, in Formula 1, as race director. But in the past month and a half, Alpine has undergone a major restructuring. Is the possibility of Brivio coming back on the table?
A. I have heard something about the changes in Alpine, but I don’t know the details. I will not say anything about the possible names. In fact, anyone could be our new team manager (he jokes).
P. In recent years there has been a lot of talk about a hypothetical Suzuki satellite team, which never materialized. Is that project totally discarded?
R. I myself bet on him, and we had some opportunities. But sometimes the situation in Japan, others, the company’s policy, and, ultimately, different reasons, prevented us from reaching an agreement with anyone. I still have the hope of being able to carry it out; It will depend on the options that are open.
Q. This year there will be eight Ducati on the grid. Don’t you think it would be a great help to have at least those four Suzukis?
R. I am quite satisfied with our current structure, because we have two drivers whose data is very valuable. If we lost one of them things would get very complicated. But now we can compare and cross the information of the two very well. Having a satellite team can be very useful, but it also depends on the philosophy of that team. If the goal is to train young drivers, your data may not be as useful in terms of development, because their experience is limited. Having a satellite team is not that important for the evolution of the bike.