Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden gave a lesson in diplomacy in Valencia this afternoon when grilled about the future of Ducati boss Filippo Preziosi.
It has been widely reported in Italy and is the subject of intense speculation at the final round that Preziosi will be removed as Ducati Corse General and Technical Director after tomorrow’s season finale in Spain.
Preziosi could be the highest profile casualty of a management shake-up by new Ducati owners Audi, who are desperate to recover from a disastrous two-year spell with Italian icon Rossi.
Since Preziosi was hailed as the technical mastermind behind Ducati’s historic first world title success with Casey Stoner back in 2007, the Bologna factory has struggled to replicate that success.
Ducati hasn’t won a race since the end of 2010 and its two-year spell with Rossi has been an unmitigated disaster.
Rossi heads into his Ducati farewell tomorrow in Valencia with just three podium finishes in 34 races, while American Hayden is facing not scoring a rostrum in a season for the first time in his premier class career.
The GP11 and GP12 has struggled to match the pace of Honda and Yamaha and been dogged by a persistent understeer and aggressive power delivery issue ever since Rossi first tested the Desmosedici two years ago.
With so much speculation about Preziosi’s future in the paddock this afternoon, it was inevitable that both Rossi and Hayden were quizzed on the subject in their media debriefs after qualifying in 11 and seventh respectively.
Both confirmed they were aware of the speculation but both denied they had been informed of Preziosi’s departure.
Nine-times world champion Rossi, who will re-join Yamaha’s factory squad next week, said: “I don’t know if it is true. Filippo has said nothing to me about this and maybe they are just rumours. I will race with another bike and another team, so I am sorry for Filippo. I know him very well but it is not my problem.”
Hayden meanwhile added: “I’ve just heard that. You hear so many rumours but I didn’t hear it inside Ducati and as far as I know there is no truth to it.
"It is just a rumour and I don’t want to say this or that but I have a good relationship with Filippo and he has done a lot for Ducati. I would think it would be hard to replace a guy like that.”
Preziosi is present in Valencia and he will also oversee next week’s two-day test session when Andrea Dovizioso takes the place of Rossi.
There has been no official confirmation from Ducati on the management shake-up speculation.