Ducati’s Jack Miller had a weekend to forget in Argentina after a difficult qualifying and penalty drop were compounded by a 14th place finish.
The Lenovo rider initially looked strong in Saturday’s opening free practices but with the compact schedule, due to late arriving freight at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit, he was unable to master the perfect setup for his Desmosedici around the bumpy 4.8km layout.
“We were in a tricky situation,” Miller explained on Sunday night. “We were missing time, pace throughout the whole weekend. Chasing our arse a little bit and we went one direction, then in the warm up we tried something, really satisfied with it, tried another direction for the race and it was just missing feeling. I was able to ride in a relatively safe way, let's say, the whole race. I gave the maximum I could, I pushed every lap to the end but I missed that confidence the whole way through.
“I wasn't able to make one single overtake throughout the whole race. Simply because I just didn't have the confidence in the front to go offline or try and force a pass.
“I had to kind of wait for guys to make mistakes around me and then try to capitalise on that. I felt like I was trying to manage the tyres really well and hopefully that would help me towards the end. I was able to come back towards those guys at the end but I wasn't able to pass. Simple as that. I got behind Oliveira and that's where I stayed. A very disappointing day.”
With teammate Pecco Bagnaia openly suffering and frustrated on Saturday and Pramac’s Johann Zarco having similar issues throughout the weekend, did the Australian feel the problems were intrinsic to the GP22, or simply a result of the bumpy and unused South American circuit?
“It's difficult to say at this point,” Miller admitted. “Our bike is working well. We have a good package. This weekend we just weren't able to find a good setup for the bike and it's as simple as that. I've never done a race in my career where I've never passed one single person, my whole entire life. So that for me is a massive blow. It doesn't feel good. We are all working extremely hard now to understand what the issues are and to try and find a solution as quick as possible.
“We made a change during the warm up and then again for the race just to try move the balance around of the bike a little bit and it just didn't give me any front contact,” he elaborated. “There's a couple of bumps going into turn one and there's like the clean line and then the dirty line and I wasn't able to put a wheel into the dirty line. If I did I just would suddenly start to lock the front, or start to have moments let's say. So I kind of had to ride a very clean, tidy race and try not to make any sort of strange manoeuvres. Try not to go out of the line at all. I wasn't able to force in the braking zones as I normally can. Simple as that, I just wasn't able to use the front like I normally would.
“Turn one has been a struggle for me all weekend,” Miller continued. “Even in FP1, I had a big moment there and then as you saw at the beginning of Q2, I threw it down going in there after a pushing lap. It just felt like I was really riding on the knife edge this weekend, in terms of I didn't have any margin to play with. I think it's just due to the track conditions, the way that the bike is working, the grip that's out there and the steps that were made throughout the weekend to try and fix them.
“It's hard to say,’ he admitted when questioned on the complexities of the current spec Ducati’s window for perfection. “For sure this weekend has been a different one. Not being to this place in two years and then limiting to a two day weekend. Everything is much more cutthroat, so for sure you're limited to how much you can change. We have a lot of engineers and a lot of guys working but the thing we didn't have this weekend was time and it's as simple as that. If you compare to the GP19 which we last had here, the bike has changed quite a bit and the tyres have changed. Everything’s changed. Just struggled to try and find our way this weekend.”
While the Australian’s season has not got off to the start that he’d hoped for, Miller doesn’t feel the issues in Indonesia and Argentina are linked.
"Not so much,” he confirmed. “For example, in Qatar, I really felt like we had a great pace for the race. Indonesia, quite similar but in the race itself, in the wet race, that was more a setup issue. We weren't ready really for the ideal setup for the wet conditions and that was more to do with the rear end of the bike. This weekend has been really, really cutthroat, like I said, on the front end of the bike and rear. I mean, the grip hasn't been great all weekend and we've been struggling to find drive. Chasing our tail a little bit and we were just unable to find a solution.
“We know what is the issue, well, we know what our problems are, now it's just to find a solution and thankfully we have a great group of people with us to try and find a solution. I mean my worst lap was maybe four-tenths worse than my best lap and I did my best lap on lap 13 so I felt good on the bike, let's say but like I said I pushed really towards the end. On about lap 16 I really started to push to try and come back to Oliveira and that group of guys and I was able to do it, but once I arrived to Miguel, I wasn't able to pass. I tried several different spots, several different locations to try and line up for a pass and I wasn't even able to really have a decent attempt because if I did, I would have made a problem just for him and I, both of us.
“So for me the idea and the goal was to finish. I did that but nobody wants to finish in 14th. I mean, yeah we are 14 seconds behind the winner but that's MotoGP in these days.”