Davide Brivio has revealed that a surprise Facebook message from Suzuki, asking about the availability of Valentino Rossi for the factory’s upcoming MotoGP return, led to his role as team manager.
Brivio was working as a consultant for Rossi, after leaving Yamaha with The Doctor when he switched to Ducati for 2011.
In a video interview with MotoGP.com, Brivio – who is switching to F1 as Racing Director of the Alpine team following Mir’s historic 2020 title victory – explained:
“[Suzuki project leader Shinichi] Sahara reached out to me on Facebook, which was strange because I don’t use Facebook. I have a profile but I don’t use it. I don’t even know how, even now! But I saw a notification and looked at the messages.
“I saw Sahara’s name and he wanted to know what Valentino Rossi’s intentions were for the future. He told me that Suzuki wanted to return to MotoGP in 2014 and he asked if Valentino Rossi would be available to race for them.
“I spoke with Valentino but he said riding for Suzuki didn’t interest him, Valentino wanted to go back to Yamaha [for 2013] and so I politely replied to Sahara to let him know Valentino was not interested.
“And then we started talking a bit and Sahara asked me if, in case he started a team in Italy, would I be interested? And I said yes, I might be interested. So I started with them on April 1, 2013.”
After postponing their MotoGP plans for a season Suzuki returned as a wild-card at Valencia 2014, marking the race debut fo the GSX-RR, before a full campaign in 2015.
Brivio on Suzuki’s rider signings (and those that nearly happened):
Aleix Espargaro (2015-2016): “We chose Aleix Espargaro because he was already an expert ride, fast, and could help with the set-up of the bike.”
Maverick Vinales (2015-2016): “I went to Qatar and saw his first Moto2 race. I noticed that in the last 10-12 laps he was the fastest. And then in the second race, in Austin, he won. And with that we recognised he was someone special.”
Andrea Dovizioso: “We also tried to get Dovizioso [for 2015] but at the last minute he decided to say with Ducati.”
Andrea Iannone (2017-2018): “Vinales left Suzuki to go to Yamaha. We decided to sign Andrea Iannone as we thought it would be good to repeat the Vinales project [one experienced rider alongside one rookie]… But we did not have an engine that Iannone could get the most out of. In 2018, with a better engine, Iannone and Rins got nine podiums between them and it was a good season.”
Alex Rins (2017-present) instead of Johann Zarco: “We agreed a contract with Zarco while he was racing in Moto2. So during his last season in Moto2 he was under a Suzuki contract. We had to choose between Zarco and Rins, who was also emerging as a talent. It was a very difficult choice but in the end we settled on Rins. This caused a lot of criticism during 2017 because Zarco went to Yamaha with Tech3 and was very strong. He was getting podiums while Rins, who was unlucky [with injuries], was in trouble. The results in 2017 were very disappointing [but in 2018] the Rins project was working well, the talented young man was growing.”
Joan Mir (2019-present) instead of Jorge Lorenzo: “The idea of trying another young man like Rins was conceived. Vinales, Rins… let’s try another we thought. We began to think of Joan Mir, because winning the Moto3 championship with ten victories caught my attention.
“During that time we also had the option to sign Jorge Lorenzo. So in the end we had to chose between Lorenzo and Mir. But it was not a choice between two riders, but not a choice in philosophy and the direction we wanted to take, going with a veteran rider like Lorenzo, or developing a young talent.
“The more we got to know about Joan, the more he seemed like someone special. He liked Suzuki but his manager told me there was a problem because he had an option with Honda. So then I asked him directly, ‘Are you interested in Suzuki regardless of the Honda option? If you had to choose between Suzuki and Honda where would you go?’
“And he told me: ‘I want to go to Suzuki, because for me the Suzuki is a motorcycle that adapts to my style’. And when he told me that, my eyes lit up and I thought, ‘he’s the right man!'”