Great things were expected of Marco Melandri when he switched to Ducati's MotoGP team for the 2008 season. The Italian has been a rising star on the Gresini Honda, finishing 2nd to Valentino Rossi in 2005, and scoring three victories in 2006. In the first year of the 800s, 2007, Melandri had struggled along with the rest of the Honda riders, after HRC, like the other Japanese factories, realized they had got their 800cc bikes completely wrong when faced with the raw power of the Ducati. If Casey Stoner could win so convincingly on the bike, the reasoning went, then Melandri would surely clean up completely once he got on the bike.
Rarely has a manufacturer switch turned into such a disaster. Melandri's time at Ducati was a nightmare almost from day one, the low point coming after a series of crashes at Jerez. Melandri failed completely to get to grips with the Desmosedici, despite his teammate racking up 6 victories on the machine. The Italian ended the season in 17th, and terminated his contract a year early, leaving the Ducati seat to Nicky Hayden.
Speaking to the website of the Italian magazine Motosprint, Melandri said he recognized his own experience in the decidedly mediocre times of nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, when he took the 2011 version of Ducati's Desmosedici MotoGP bike out for his first outing aboard the machine. Rossi could manage only the 10th fastest time on the first day of the test, and was 15th fastest on day two, ending just a couple of hundredths ahead of rookie Karel Abraham on the same bike. Rossi was clearly uncomfortable on the bike, partly a result of the continuing pain from his injured shoulder.
"It's a movie I've seen before," Melandri told Motosprint, when asked about Rossi's debut on the Ducati. Melandri said that he'd had exactly the same problems with the Ducati that Rossi had had during the Valencia test, but Ducati had not listened to his feedback. He had asked for changes to be made to the bike, Melandri told Motosprint, but Ducati merely replied that their bike had won a world title, and he would have to adapt his style. The difference now, Melandri believed, is that Valentino Rossi has a lot more political power than Melandri did back in 2008. Where Ducati sent Melandri to a psychologist to try and deal with the problem, they are more likely to listen to Rossi's suggestions.
Whether that would be successful is another matter altogether, Melandri noted. "I don't know whether he will manage to change the situation," Melandri told Motosprint, "but he has the means to do it. I'm not convinced that he will succeed, however."