Is Alvaro Bautista a dark horse for the 2022 WorldSBK title with Ducati?

Alvaro Bautista vows to 'learn from the mistakes of three years ago' as he looks to finish what he started with Ducati in the 2022 WorldSBK Championship

Alvaro Bautista - Ducati

Alvaro Bautista says he will ‘learn from the mistakes of three years ago’ as he looks to make a triumphant return to the Ducati factory team for the 2022 WorldSBK Championship.

Returning to the outfit with which he made his WorldSBK debut after making the high-profile transition from MotoGP in 2019, the Spaniard enjoyed instant success on the new Ducati Panigale V4 R to reel off a record-breaking 11 straight wins from his debut.

However, despite opening up a healthy lead over Jonathan Rea in the process, an extreme drop in form mid-way through the season - punctuated by a number of costly crashes - saw him fall away in the title battle, Bautista eventually finishing a distant runner-up to his Kawasaki rival.

With Bautista proceeding to spend two underwhelming seasons with Honda aboard the new but slow-developing CBR1000RR-R Fireblade, he returns to the Ducati fold for 2022 in a bid to right the wrongs of 2019 and challenge for the manufacturer’s first title since 2011.

“I am very happy to be back in this fantastic team, with and Ducati. It feels like a real family to me and finding basically the team I worked with in 2019 has been of paramount importance. 

“My feelings with the Panigale V4R were immediately very positive: I think the bike is even more balanced than the one I left. With such a competitive team and machine, obviously the goal is to fight for the title. 

“I have more experience, I know the tyres and the format of the competition better, but it will still be crucial to learn from the mistakes of three years ago. Winter tests got me very excited and I can’t wait to get on track at Aragon.”

Can Alvaro Bautista finish what he started on WorldSBK debut?

Much ink has been spilled over time about Bautista’s bizarre 2019 WorldSBK campaign, which wasn’t so much as a season of two halves but a season of two entirely different riders.

Bursting out of the box with supreme confidence, Bautista’s swagger and comfortable winning margins during the opening four rounds was such that it was hard to believe anyone else's name would be etched into the winners’ trophy come the end of the year.

However, come the end of the year, such was the slump in performance and sure-footedness from the Spaniard, it was hard to remember him being such a contender in the first place.

There hasn’t been too much clarity on why Bautista went from top of the pile to skidding in the gravel trap far too regularly in quick succession, but he has intimated his aggressive braking and entry style got away from him and it never came back. It was a trait that hampered him at Honda too, with Bautista racking up an uncomfortable number of crash statistics in three short years.

It means Ducati’s boldness in expecting a title challenge from Bautista has been met with a cautious reception, with many anticipating he will be too loose on the bike to mount a challenge to the metronomically steadfast Rea and Toprak Razgatlioglu.

Indeed, this will be where Bautista needs to be on top of his game, which is a big ask given both his form in his area and the fact the pace at the front is searing these days.

Still, there are many who believe he is the best qualified to wring the best from the Ducati Panigale V4 R, which by all accounts is considered the best bike on the grid, albeit one with a smaller optimum operating window than the Kawasaki ZX-10RR and Yamaha R1.

Coupled to its superior top speed and Bautista’s featherweight profile, he will surely stand to gain a few free tenths at some of the quicker circuits.

His aggressive style is also one that could take the elbows to Razgatlioglu, perhaps more so than Scott Redding and maybe even Rea. It will just depend on whether he can get up there - and stay there to the flag - in the first place…