SIC58 Squadra Corse rider Tatsuki Suzuki finished his third season of the Moto3 World Championship in 14th place. Compared to his previous two seasons (28th in 2015 and 27th in 2016) his 2017 season was a significant improvement.
“In the previous two years, it was difficult to understand my potential, but this year, I grasped where I am in this class. I also found the gap between the top guys and me, and what I have to do to close the gap. It was a very productive season for me.”
Suzuki also describes his 2017 season as laborious.
“Before the season has started, I expected I would be able to fight for the top 5 or even top 3. But it was not the case. I started riding with Honda Moto3 this year and didn’t understand its characteristics very well, so I crashed often, especially in the first part of the season. Another reason for my crashes is that I joined this team SIC58 Squadra Corse this year, and we didn’t know each other very well in the beginning. But as the season went by, we gradually started to understand each other and found the way to go with the setup of our bike. In the middle of the season, we found a good base setup, and my riding became consistent on any track.”
Suzuki began to join the battle for the lead, in the middle of the season. The more he fought in the lead group, the more he boosted his confidence.
“Last year, I was always very frustrated that the lead group was too far from me. But this year, I was able to close the gap with them. Then I found one thing. When I was just behind the top riders such as Mil, Fenati, and Martin, I was prone to hesitate to attack. I hadn’t battled with them in the past, and maybe I thought they were special and better than me. But in the middle of the season when I was up in the lead group more often with them, I found they were no different from me, and I didn’t hesitate to battle with them anymore. It was a mental breakthrough for me.”
According to Suzuki, it was the Spanish Grand Prix where he found his competitiveness to fight with the top riders.
“I was seventh in Qualifying at Jerez, a track that everyone knows very well and tested pre-season, which means my level was there, more or less.”
His most disappointing race was the Japanese Grand Prix in October, where Suzuki finished 4th for his best result of this year, though.
“The best result of this year was the most disappointing race for me, because I missed the podium that I could’ve won. All through the weekend, I was able to stay in the top 5, but in Qualifying I made a mistake, which cost me, and I started from 15th grid. If I could start the race from Row 3, the race would have been different. It was a typical mistake for this season; I was good in free practice but made a mistake in qualifying, then struggled in the race to recover. I know I have to improve. Somehow.”
“When the setup of my bike is not perfect, I tend to stay calm and see how my bike behaves. I couldn’t push hard enough. On the other hand, fast riders can push their hardest in the final 10 minutes of qualifying even though their bikes were far from perfect. For example, Jorge Martin took pole position nine times this year, but his bike's setup was not necessarily perfect. Sometimes it was quite surprising to see Jorge's super-lap with an imperfect setup. Maybe they can turn their switch off in their brain when they go for a flying lap.
"Now I am teaching myself how to do it. When I master this trick, I will be able to go faster and be more competitive. But you know, saying is one thing and doing is another!”
Although expectations for the young rider are rising in the 2018 season, Suzuki anticipates that it will be another tough year.
“I need the podium next year, and I think I can do it. But at the same time, I got the feeling that it might be more difficult of a season than this year. We had three manufacturers this year, but in the 2018 season, one manufacturer will withdraw from Moto3 and there will only be two, including Honda. That means we have to expect there will be some riders who become very fast by changing manufacturers to our competitor. Let’s say, there will be someone like me this year. I am confident to be competitive from the start of the season when we find a better setup. And I have already found where I have to improve. So that, now what I have to do for the 2018 season is to keep on training and prepare well this winter.”