Valentino's mood at the end of the day is better than his 11th time could make one suspect. The last place available to be able to sleep soundly, knowing he would be in the Q2, slipped by him with 71 thousandths, but the sensations he felt on the Yamaha give him peace of mind. Enough so, we could add, to be on a circuit that seems designed to enhance the M1's weak points. The Red Bull Ring wants horses, those that Yamaha doesn't have.
"Unfortunately, I just missed being in the top 10 in the rankings. I lost some time in traffic but, for tomorrow, the forecasts are good, and I can fight to get into the Q2," he said confidently.
Have there been any improvements compared to last year?
I'm a bit faster. My pace isn't bad. We've done a great job with the electronics and put less stress on the rear tire. This allows me to be more constant. Having said that, as usual, there are many different fast riders and bikes, and I expect a good fight to enter the Q2. The FP3s will be crucial."
Did a track with more grip help?
"I think it was more the Yamaha. In this circuit, we often have to accelerate with a bent bike and, last year, we put too much stress on the rear tire. Now everything is better. We can keep the tire under control and this makes me more constant."
Just this morning the head of Yamaha, Sumi, said something has changed. Seems like you're agreeing with him.
"His words were interesting, and I agree. The problems started in 2017. We neither worked less nor in the right areas. However, there have been signs this year, changes both in people and in in-house organization. This makes me optimistic about the future. Now we need results and time. The problem is that I no longer have much of it, so I push them to hurry up," he said laughing.
Sumi also acknowledged that the main problem is the M1's maximum speed.
"The difference compared to our opponents has become too vast, more than 10 Km/h, and I'm not referring only to Honda and Ducati, but to all the bikes. When find yourself behind a slower rider in the race, but with a better engine, passing becomes difficult. That's why the qualifications are even more important for us. We need to be able to start in the first two rows, in order to be able to stick to the best and, so to speak, be carried along. If I have to pass someone, it becomes complicated."
One last thing: Why don't you kneel beside the bike anymore before leaving the garage?
"Simply because I hurt my knee (ed. he scraped it slipping on his scooter) and I can't bend it," he laughed.