Ducati's MotoGP boss Paolo Ciabatti has admitted that the Italian brand has suffered many wounds from two seasons of failure with Valentino Rossi.
Ducati won its first title in 15 years with Francesco Bagnaia this year, while the period with Valentino Rossi took a heavy toll due to high expectations and poor results.
Rossi joined Ducati in the 2011 season and left it at the end of 2012, during which time the seemingly dream Italian combination managed only three podium finishes. According to Ciabatti, the situation in the team was quite toxic due to the failed cooperation, even to the point that in the middle of 2013 he considered leaving after only a few months of cooperation.
"When I joined Ducati a few months after the Audi takeover, we were witnessing some changes," recalls Ciabatti. "Due to high expectations from the cooperation with Rossi, Filipo Presziosi left after two years, and the failed cooperation left many wounds in the entire organization. Usually, personal problems can be solved in case of failures, but when things go completely wrong and you find yourself under extreme pressure from the media, partners and sponsors, to whom you cannot show results, there are people who look for the blame in others. This destroys the team and the entire team. This was the situation in the team when I joined it, so we had to fire some people at the end of 2013. I myself came close to quitting in the middle of the 2013 season. There were no results, Ducati had two unsuccessful seasons with Valentino, and Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden had a lot of problems. The media was extremely negative towards us and accused us of being stagnant, which was true to some extent, as we did not have a clear plan for development."
Ciabatti credited Ducati's turnaround to Claudio Domenicali, the Ducati director who brought Gigi Dall'Igno to the team at the end of 2013. "I told him that we need to move something and that we need someone who will be able to lead a technically complex project like MotoGP. Claudio managed to convince Gigi to leave Aprilia and when he joined us things took a turn for the better. We also had problems because we are not as big as our Japanese competitors. Our project is much more dependent on partners and sponsors. But at that moment it was difficult to find anyone willing to invest in us, as they were willing to do with Valentino, and because of the media attention when he failed, it was difficult to restore the confidence of investors, which could only be restored with results. You can make promises, but after a string of bad results, it's hard to convince investors. It was definitely not easy, so I can say that this victory of ours after all the problems in the last 10 years is truly extraordinary," added Ciabatti.
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