His Yamaha was the slowest of those on the track. Motegi was a Saturday with a bitter aftertaste for Valentino Rossi, who will be starting from the tenth position on the grid. While the other M1s were battling it out for the first row, the Doctor was chasing after them. The track conditions certainly didn't help #46, who has no intention of giving up on Sunday, also since it's probably not going to rain.
"The conditions were difficult," began Valentino. "I managed to be quite fast in the FP4, while we even managed to lower the times in qualifying, despite conditions that were not perfect. Unfortunately, I was missing a few tenths to be ahead on the grid, since I wasn't good in braking. There were points where I could have been more competitive. So we'll see the situation tomorrow. It should be drier and cool."
Rossi goes straight to the problem.
"Brakes are really important here. The fact is that I'm not okay, so we'll have to try something. As you know, I changed my style to be able to break away better. Of course, I was hoping to be up front more on the grid. Unfortunately, I wasn't fantastic when braking. Tomorrow we'll have to see to some things to improve."
With a dry tarmac, Valentino will have to get on the track with a knife between his teeth.
"My pace wasn't bad yesterday. As usual, there are lots of fast riders. I'll have to start off well, then see if I can recuperate or not."
Meanwhile, the M1 satellites on the Petronas team laid down the law in relation to the official ones. Even his teammate Maverick Vinales is ahead.
"Naturally, there are pros and cons in this situation. From a technical point of view, it's nice to have other fast Yamahas because you can understand more. It's a great challenge, since all the Yamaha riders are fast and, consequently, it's an interesting comparison among us. With Quartararo's performance as a rookie everyone is, in fact, giving it their all, but it's tough."
Among the Yamaha riders ahead of him is his pupil, Franco Morbidelli.
"Morbido was good. He did a great lap. He's been improving lately. He was very good and fast, since getting that time was difficult."
Motegi is the first round of the Asian triptych, so we're wondering if the Doctor has had the opportunity for a confrontation with the upper echelons at Yamaha with regard to 2020.
"Nothing happened here in Japan, since we had already talked about it before on several occasions. I think we need to improve in terms of engine. We need to gain speed on the straights while maintaining a good supply. We're also working a lot on electronics with the engineers. The bike has improved from that point of view, but there's still a lot to be done."
Next year the number of Grand Prixs will increase but, at the same time, the tests will decrease. Not really the greatest thing for those looking to improve their bikes.
"I don't like tests. I prefer the races," Valentino said, surprising us. "Races are ceratinly better than tests, even if you're under more pressure when you race than when you test, where it's easier."
Audio recorded by Paolo Scalera