Valentino Rossi was able to get a second row in Sepang. This can be considered a satisfactory result, but it automatically makes him the only Yamaha rider that didn't make the first row. Quartararo, Vinales, and Morbidelli monopolized the first three positions on the grid, but a sixth position for a rider like Rossi is nothing to cry about, especially because of how it was reached.
Valentino probably lost the best chance to challenge the time trial because of some traffic on the track just as he was breaking away. Nowadays, in the MotoGP, it's as if we're always witnessing an authentic game of chess among the riders in qualifying. Riders intent on following their rival's every move, looking for the best slipstream to follow.
A strategy that Marquez, the pole position record man, also tired today .But it didn't go well for Marc this time (see the photos of the fall HERE), and the Spanish rider will be 11th tomorrow. When they had Valentino notice this tendency of Marc's to try to annoy the most dangerous rider on the track when racing for a pole, the following was his answer.
Marc is always breaking the fastest rider's chops. Even if he's the youngest, Fabio seemed rather immune to this strategy. What do you think?
"Marc's a pain? I have nothing to add. They told me about it, but I haven't seen the images myself. It'll obviously be more difficult for him to break away from the 11th position, especially because those with the same fast pace at the moment are Vinales and Quartararo, who are starting first and second. But Marc will absolutely have no problems moving back up tomorrow, so he might even be able to fight for the victory."
About yourself, do you think a race like the one in 2018 is possible?
"The conditions are always a bit different here on Sunday, so we have to see. I started second last year, then I managed to take the lead and quickly reach a good pace. Now it's a bit more difficult to think of doing a race like that from the second row."
But you've taken some steps forward at the start. We also saw it in Australia.
"Yes, we worked a lot on that, something that everyone is doing a bit with various systems. Now it's become essential. I started fast in Australia, so we were doing well. At the moment, it looks as if Quartararo and Maverick have the best pace but, in the end, we're all more or less there in Yamaha."
Do you think it could be an all Yamaha race tomorrow?
"All the Yamaha riders are very fast, and I could have done a little bit better, but I'll at least be starting from the second row." But, at most, I think I could have gotten a fifth time, so it doesn't change things much. I think Vinales, Quartararo, and Marquez are the fastest on the race pace. Then I think Franco and I will be there, too. It's going to be really important to start well and try to stay close to those in front. I also think Dovizioso's pace isn't bad, but he's starting tenth.
Will this be the best chance for you this year?
"As far as I'm concerned, it's an opportunity to take advantage of, especially since I'm doing well. I have a good pace, I ride well, and I'm always pretty fast. I'm starting from the second row, so I'm not even that far away. I'll have to try and give it my all, We'll try to do something tomorrow morning during the warm up. Then the choice of tires will be fundamental."
haven't you reached a final decision yet?
"I think we worked really well on defining the tire to use in the race, but I think we'll reach a final decision during tomorrow's warm up. At the moment, we're deciding between the medium and the soft, and I think it's the same for many other riders because you could actually use both. It will depend a lot on the conditions tomorrow morning."
Yamaha's progress is now evident. You've been going strong since Misano, but where did you really take the important step forward?
"We focused a lot on trying to improve when the M1 exits corners, and the bike is now accelerating better. We took our biggest step forward with the electronics but, frankly, it's really nothing. The acceleration was just intelligently worked on, in order to have a softer bike and more constant when it comes to power. We took a big step forward from there."
Audio recorded by Matteo Aglio