It’s true that the results of tests, particularly pre-season sessions, should be taken with a pinch of salt, but in the case of Valentino Rossi they are rather telling. This, based on his words at the end of the two-day Qatar session, which the Doctor closed in twentieth position, more than a second and a half from leader Fabio Quartararo, now a factory Yamaha rider.
The same problems
The Doctor was presumably not focusing on a time attack but, worryingly, the problems the 42-year old highlighted after the test are essentially the same as last year. Rossi might have changed colours in moving to the Petronas SRT team, but the bike remains the same, and the rider continues to suffer from the same rear grip and acceleration issues.
A chasm between him and the others
The comparison with the other Yamaha is less than favourable. Fabio Quartararo is first, Franco Morbidelli – his new team-mate - fourth, and Maverick Viñales seventh. Rossi needs to take the data collated so far and work to improve both his position and his less than inspiring lap times. Last year, he scored just one podium and, after this disappointing start, the Italian appears to be in the same difficult situation while the other three Yamaha riders tell a different story.
The good news is that he has three more test days in which to focus solely on improving his feeling with the bike, working with crew chief David Muñoz, electronics engineer Matteo Flamigni and other new team members to find a solution. Something that will allow him to be ready for Sunday 28 March, when he’ll compete in the first race of the season. Rossi is a rider who has always been able to pull the rabbit out of the hat come race day, but will he be able to do it again this time?
Translated by Heather Watson