In part six of our series looking back at 2013, we reach Alvaro Bautista. Below is our view on Bautista's season in MotoGP. You can catch up with the rest of this series here: part 1, Marc Marquez; part 2, Jorge Lorenzo; part 3, Dani Pedrosa; part 4, Valentino Rossi; and part 5, Cal Crutchlow.
|Alvaro Bautista||Go&Fun Gresini Honda|
Alvaro Bautista is arguably MotoGP's most underappreciated rider. A former 250cc champion, the Spaniard has been on a downward trajectory since moving to MotoGP, through no real fault of his own. First, he signed with Suzuki, making him a factory rider with MotoGP's weakest factory. After Suzuki left, Bautista moved to Gresini, where he rides for a pittance, and is forced to earn his keep as a test rider for Showa and Nissin. Left to fight against the industry standard Ohlins and Brembo on his own, Bautista does not get the recognition he deserves even when he is punching above his weight.
Bautista seemed all too aware of the challenge he faced in the early part of the season, off the pace of Cal Crutchlow, the man he should have been battling with given their relative positions in Yamaha and Honda. The first-lap incident with Valentino Rossi at Mugello, then another first lap crash two weeks later at Barcelona left him floundering. But a strong test at Aragon after Barcelona helped him find an improved set up, and Bautista made strong progress in the second half of the year. He spent the latter part of the season locked in battle with Valentino Rossi, a fight he was always destined to lose. He came close to the podium on several occasions, though he never could quite make it, being trumped by wily veteran Rossi at the end of the race.
In 2013, Alvaro Bautista showed he still has plenty of potential. But he also showed the importance of a good set up and a strong mind, and the interaction between the two. Bautista allowed his head to hang a little too often last season, but the improvements at the end of the year, and the added development input from the Honda production racers in 2014 should see him improve his chances. With so many strong Spanish riders in MotoGP at the moment, he will need an outstanding season if he is to remain in MotoGP beyond 2014.
Bautista's season had started to turn around after Barcelona, where Showa brought new forks and his team found a setting that solved some of the problems he'd been having. At both Laguna Seca and Indianapolis, Bautista was close to the front, just missing out on a podium at Laguna, and being beaten back to sixth at Indy. Both times, it was Valentino Rossi who got the better of him, and both times, Bautista was so close he could smell it.
If the crash at Mugello was bad - colliding with Valentino Rossi at the Italian's home circuit temporarily made Bautista the most hated man in Italy - the crash two weeks later was worse. The incident at Mugello was debatable, two riders on different trajectories meeting at the same point on the circuit. But at Barcelona, the fault was all Bautista's, going down after outbraking himself in an attempt not to take Rossi out in two consecutive races. Crashing in your home race is a bad idea. Just ask Cal Crutchlow.