Not even a duff tyre was enough to wipe the smile off Valentino's face at the end of day two of testing at Sepang. In the last 10 minutes, he was ready for a time attack, but the Michelin mounted at the rear prevented him from doing so. In the end, the Doctor settled for the 6th fastest time, a good 7 tenths behind his team-mate, but the positive sensations experienced on the M1 mean that he is relaxed.
Valentino, what happened on that final lap?
“I had kept one tyres aside to attempt a time attack but unfortunately it didn't work. It was really old, otherwise I could have improved on my time, though that's easy to say now”.
You mean an old tyre…
“Yes, it was produced for the 1996 Assen GP and unfortunately tyres are not like wine, they don't improve with age (he laughs) Joking aside, it was a pity because I wouldn't have been able to beat Maverick's time but I probably could have been inside the top three. It doesn't matter who was at the front today, but I want to congratulate Maverick on his lap anyway”.
Aside from that setback, how was the day?
“We had more material to test and today didn't go badly. We've found something with which to improve performance, we worked well and my pace was fairly good. Tomorrow we have more things to try and then we'll see where we are at the end of the three days”.
What are these new elements?
"Many small things across all areas, so the engine, the acceleration and engine brake, the electronics and frame. The aim is always to improve grip and tyre management”.
Are you and Vinales still on the same track?
“As far as I know, Maverick and I are moving in the same direction and, looking at the times, I'd say he's getting on OK with the bike (he laughs). That's important as it means the M1 has good potential”.
Are you resolving the issue of excessive tyre wear?
“I didn't complete a long run, it's too hot (he laughs) but I tried to use used tyres. It looks like we've improved a little but I don't think it's enough yet. To be sure, we need to do a race simulation, but we need it to be 20° cooler”.
Have you closed in on your rivals?
“We are a little closer but it's not enough yet. The Ducatis were very quick in terms of pace today, I'm not far off with the used tyres but it's not enough. We've improved but not enough”.
Speaking of Ducati, what do you think of the collaboration between Dovi and Petrucci: will it last?
“It's important when there's a good atmosphere in the team and the two riders can work together, as Bagnaia and Marini did on my Moto2 team last year. But when it comes to the race, each wants to beat the other”.
How telling are these tests?
“In my experience, what happens in winter testing can change completely once the championship begins. Whether it goes positively or negatively, the race weekends are something else. The temperatures we've seen here are something we'll only see twice during the eyar, so even the tyres and settings we're using are odd. Aside from that, Sepang has an interesting layout, because it has everything, from changes in direction to fast turns but also slow turns, but the conditions remain unique”.
Do you plan a race simulation tomorrow?
“I don't think so, if I do that I won't have the strength for anything else. I prefer to save my energy and continue to focus on testing the material”.
Now they'll say you are old…
“i'd like to be 30, I am very old for this sport and I'm sorry about that, but I'm pleased about everything else”.
What's your secret?
“In the coming years there will be other riders who continue on until my age, you have to stop when you're tired and have lost the desire. The trick is to not believe what they say when they tell you you're old, they've been doing it to me for ten years already (he laughs)."
You haven't talked about your new helmet yet...
“I set Aldo (Drudi, the designer in charge of his graphics) a challenge, telling him that he should take a paintbrush and create a helmet that resembles a painting. So he did, and I really like the result”.