There are many things to talk about with Valentino Rossi ahead of the second round in Qatar, both in terms of what has been and what will be. As for the past, we can’t ignore last weekend’s negative performance, which saw Rossi close in just 12th place. Better than his team-mate Franco Morbidelli though, who finished 18th.
“I need to try and be quicker than last weekend in Qatar - confirms Rossi - given that I wasn’t as fast as I hoped to be in the race. We have some data to analyse, to try and increase the lifespan of the rear tyre. Franco and I have talked but haven’t been able to buck each other up(he laughs), we both expected more from the race”.
A race in which Rossi also had to deal with an undoubtedly aggressive Brad Binder, with whom #46 only narrowly avoided contact.
“Many riders race with respect for their rivals, others like Binder don’t really care. So you have to be careful when closing the line, because they come off the brakes and force you to run wide to avoid a crash. I wouldn’t say respect, maybe that’s too strong a word right now. In the past riders made contact but it was something you tried to avoid, while now some riders only think about their own race, without thinking of others”.
Which gets us thinking about how on-track battles, and their consequences, have changed over the years. Nowadays, scuffles are rarely resolved face to face, something that was very common in the 90s, as Rossi confirms.
“Now there are many cameras and a lot more pressure, so we can’t solve things like we did in the 90s, or we risk starting something that will go on for a month. You need to be more politically correct, or at least appear to be so. I don’t think we’ll go back to how things were. When I was a young rider, you had to show the more expert riders respect, but it’s not like that anymore. In the season in which I scored my first podium, I raced against riders I considered my heroes, like Sakata and Ueda, so my respect was real”.
"It takes time to understand how much better the 2021 M1 is"
As for the future, Rossi might be able to make use of the data of official riders Viñales and Quartararo, who flew the Iwata flag high by scoring a win and a fifth-place finish.
“Maverick has a different set-up to me, and some different electronics components, so it’s hard to make comparisons. Fabio had similar problems to me, but he was able to finish fifth, while I started to have real issues after only six or seven laps. Over the weekend, I’ll try to follow a different path to last weekend, hoping it brings better results”.
Rossi has his work cut out, but he nevertheless confirms that the 2021 M1 represents a solid step forward.
“Yamaha has brought us a new frame for the season, which will definitely help at the tighter tracks, and also better aerodynamics to be quicker along the straight, although the Ducatis are still significantly faster. The 2021 M1 is better than the 2020 version, but we need time to understand just how much better”.
Translated by Heather Watson