The Ducati guys tested in Mugello after the last round in France but were again unlucky with the weather in Italy. In Catalunya they had to confirm what they had tried in the test and fortunately the weather was consistent, especially during the first two days. The team seemed to like the things that had worked in Italy during the half-day of testing they got in there, but some of that stuff didn't even work here in Barcelona so they were playing around with settings quite a bit especially on day one and right up to qualifying I think.
Looking at the weekend overall you could see a definite step forward. Both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi qualified on the third row, and in the race - Valentino said it himself - I would say we witnessed the best dry race we have seen from him this year.
The Ducati guys had a lot of things in stock but I don't think things turned out the way they had wanted or envisaged. I think they found little things on electronics and set-up but the really new stuff with which they were hoping for really big improvements, it seemed like in the end on race day the margins were very little. Still the hard work they are doing is paying off and I think now, especially with the set-up of the bike, they are coming to a point where they are not totally off it any more and they know which direction to go, particularly with race set-up
I think Valentino pretty much did what he knew was possible before the race by finishing in seventh. They ran the softer compound rear tyre in the cooler weather on race day and as always he performed really well from a couple of laps in. Still missing was the old Valentino who could attack in the first few laps and make up some positions, but overall his race pace was good. You just have to look back to round one in Qatar when they started off and where he was just over 30 seconds off at the end of the race, and they've reduced that by one third and in Catalunya he finished just under 18 seconds off the race winner. If they keep going that way I'm really confident Valentino is going to have a chance to battle for podiums by mid-season, or the second part of the season at least, and that would be so great for the sport.
Next up is Silverstone where we all got completely soaked last year so let's hope the weather is not going to play a big role again, because that would not play into Ducati's hands. If the weather is consistent I'm sure we will see Valentino closing that gap to the front even more, which will just keep that desire growing to prove that he is still one of the top guys out there.