On the eve of the Mugello MotoGP race, Mick Doohan pointed out Danilo Petrucci as a rider who can really impress if he is in the condition to do it. Today the confirmation arrived. For many it was a surprise but not for Pramac or Ducati who believed in him and supplied the 26-year-old Italian a factory machine with the task to test, when necessary, some parts.
First independent team Rider, Petrucci put together and impressive race, scoring his first podium of the season and giving Ducati a double rostrum at their home GP.
Petrucci had impressed on Saturday in qualifying, setting the second fastest time after having crashed twice that day. Then he was penalised to the ninth spot on the grid for having put his wheels over the white line at turn five. In the race, his recovery from the third row was stunning. He was able to catch the front group as Dovizioso took the lead, putting pressure on Maverick Vinales, who finally stole second.
You look very emotional, how important is this podium?
“A podium in Mugello is always very special. For us even more, considering that it is the home GP of Ducati and Pramac as well, that has its headquarters close to Siena. It was an emotional moment also for me. If I look back, I started from the last position of the grid in 2012, my first season in the GPs. Today I was on the podium. This is the best day of my life. In the last laps, I felt very lonely because I had to take out all my thoughts, all the expectations, the strain, the pressure.”
Did you expect such a result?
“After the warm up, the target was to finish in the top five. I knew that the key was a good start and then the first laps. I pushed a lot at the beginning to recover on Maverick, Dovizioso and Rossi. Once I caught them, I tried to stay calm because I was at the limit. Then I saw that Valentino had slowed down his pace and I passed him.
“I caught Vinales and passed him, and tried to close the gap fto Dovizioso but I felt that it was really demanding. I knew that Maverick would have attacked me. I tried to stay focused, calm and I made it. I think that it’s a very important result for my team and together with Dovizioso also for Ducati.”
The frustration for the penalisation in qualifying turned into motivation?
“Yes, I had put my wheels on the kerbs many times, so I didn’t expect to be penalised. The positive point was that I knew I had the pace to battle with the front guys.”
This year you have a factory bike but you are also a test rider. Is this a support or an handicap?
“Ducati has given me an important task and I knew I had to do this development job to have the GP17. The problem is that I have struggled a lot. I have done less kilometres than the other riders, I had many things to test and it is hard when you have to stay in the garage for a long time. But despite the things to test, we have been competitive. This podium is a great relief. After the podium in Silverstone, many people believed I could be strong only in the wet. I showed that with a good bike I can be competitive and stay in the front.”
What was your first thought on the finish line?
“I thought that I was dreaming. I had to check the big screens several times to make sure that this was all real. Plus more than 100 friends came from my home town to support me, and this was a gift also for them. I want to thank Paolo Campinoti, the team owner, for having believed in me, Francesco Guidotti, my team manager and a friend, and Alberto Vergani, my manager”.