“Okay, I might be old, but doing it like that was too sad. It couldn't have been true." Valentino Rossi heaves a sigh of relief. The podium in Jerez meant taking a sip from the (competitive) elixir of long life. Not being able to get on the only important steps on Sunday for 17 races, equal to 1 year, 3 months, and 14 days, meant lots of suffering, which ended today."This time, it's like a win," he commented from the podium, his 199th of his career.
There is almost no need to ask why.
"I was coming from a frustrating weekend. It wasn't just one race for me, it was practically a whole year," the Doctor recalled. "In these months, I've had to struggle to change. Sometimes, you find yourself having to face problems that you don't expect. It's about policy issues. I was simply riding a bike that wasn't mine. I wasn't at ease."
“In theory, we did it to protect the rear tires, but it actually didn't solve the problem, and I was slower. On Friday, we finally managed to change it, and I started having fun again. I knew that I could have had a good race. It was fundamental for me, and now I feel more optimistic for the next GPs. Here, in Jerez, I've always struggled after the victory in 2016, and the heat has put a strain on the tires."
"I had to fight with Yamaha for 4 days to modify the bike"
Are you sending a message to Yamaha?
“They have to help me, since I'm here, and I'll be there next year. I need them to believe in me. I'm a rider who gives precise indications when I get off the bike, but I had to fight for 4 days to do what my team and I wanted on the bike. If we had given up today, it would have been another bad race."
Why is it so difficult to get them listen to you?
“Do you want the truth? Because there are Vinales and Quartararo who go very fast with that bike. I'm 41 years old, and they tell me that I have to learn to ride like them. I had to fight, when they allowed me to make the changes I wanted. I felt better. I found a bike that best suited my riding style."
"I was starting to think whether it was time to stay home, now I'm more optimistic"
Was it a breath of fresh air?
“After a bad race, my team and I had no words. I was starting to think: maybe it's time to stay home. It was frustrating, because I wasn't having fun. I was also worried that I had decided to keep racing and having to do it in those conditions."
Like with the Ducati?
“Even during those years, I had gone through a difficult time. I wasn't sure whether to continue. But then Yamaha took me back and gave me another 10 years. When you don't get good results, it's easy to think it's over. It's like that for everyone."
But you have a very long relationship with Yamaha.
“In a way, it's normal for them to think I should ride like Fabio and Maverick, they're going strong. Maybe I'm not the fastest rider on the track right now, but I can get some good races in. Sometimes I wonder why some of their positions don't seem very clever to me. Also because it's difficult to find reasons when you're not fast."
"I was riding a bike that I felt was mine, I went back to having fun"
What have you changed on the M1?
“Different things. We went towards another style. The point is that, between 2018 and 2019, the engineers had studied another way to solve the problem of the wear on the rear tire. In the beginning, it had gone well. I got two podiums, but then no more, because I couldn't ride the way I like when entering corners. But this isn't intended to be an excuse for my results."
Is that a lecture for Yamaha?
“It's not even that. I'm a Yamaha rider in my heart, and we have a great story together. I just want to put some pressure on them after a good result " he said laughing.
Could it have been better?
“Vinales deserved second place. I tried to keep up behind him, but I made a mistake two laps from the end, and I let him pass. Today's race shows that a good starting position in the MotoGP is fundamental. I also tried to follow Fabio, but he was faster."
What did you think when you saw the smoke coming out of Bagnaia's motorcycle?
“I got scared. We all slowed down, and Pecco was good at stopping as soon as they reported the problem to him. Fortunately, there was no oil on the track "
Morbidelli was also stopped by a technical problem.
“I feel bad. Franco, like Pecco, could have been on the podium. I don't know his problem, if it's the same as mine from last Sunday. But I know that the engineers are trying to solve it. We have to pay attention to it because the development of the engines will be frozen for a long time.”
"The pilots of the Academy make me proud, and they helped me when I was frustrated"
However, you got a lot of satisfaction from the riders of your Academy.
“I'm really proud of them. Together, we've done a good job these months and, being with young people, makes me less old," he said laughing. They helped me a lot when I was frustrated, as di my team and Uccio, Albi, my fiancée. I have to thank all of them if I was ready at the right time."
After Bagnaia and Morbidelli, are you waiting for Marini and Bezzecchi in the MotoGP?
“I think they both have the potential to get there. Our team in the Moto2 is among the best. In fact, I stole Munoz and Gavira from them, and I think we have the best pair of riders. Luca is my brother and has my precision but, under many other aspects, we're temperamentally different. He's colder. He often beats me at the Ranch, and that doesn't make me very happy," he said laughing. "Marco is hotter, sometimes too hot, and has a great talent. I have to say Vietti and Manzi were also good today. Both of them had a good race. Just one thing, they have to be a bit more careful after the checkered flag!”.