“If I had been asked to bet money on a podium for me before the race, I don’t know if I would have done it, maybe just a few Euros”. Valentino is honest after the umpteenth of a long series of enterprises. Rossi was coming off a disastrous winter. His competitiveness seemed like a pipe dream but, as often happens with him, the race transformed him.
“I was slow in the tests on purpose, otherwise it would have been disappointing, but this way it is a great result - the Doctor continued to laugh after stepping down from the podium - Beginning the season with this result is very important. I was coming from a bad period.”
How would you tell the story?
“It had been since November, when I tested the new bike, that I had not felt good in the saddle. For this I must thank both my team and all the guys at Yamaha who always made me feel their faith in me and their support, even when the situation was critical.”
What was the turning point?
“Friday. I won’t say that I saw the light, but at least the door was ajar. I began to feel optimistic, but Saturday we lost the entire day and in the warm up things did not go well. With the heat the tyres were done after 3 laps.”
But in the race…
“I started well and I also managed not to fall on the first turn when I was hit by a train (he laughs). Without a doubt, these conditions, with cooler temperatures, helped me. We had made some changes to the bike and I had fun riding it.”
Have you made peace with the new bike?
“Yamaha has always pushed me to use it and Viñales had always been fast with this bike, so it just takes time. The result today is very nice. I am happy because we were able to stay calm even in difficult moments. I hope that we have found a base we can start from in the next rounds.”
Did you think about being able to aim for the win?
“First I got into the top 5 and I was pleased. Then in the top 3 and I said to myself that anything could happen. Viñales was much faster. Maybe I could have had a go with Dovizioso, but it would have been easier to screw things up than to succeed. I was struggling too much with the front tyre on the right side.”
You came out of a nightmare…
“I really struggled a lot this winter, but during the race weekend I always manage to work better. Then, in the tests I had some physical problems. I was always running around and wasn’t able to train properly. After all, I’m almost 40 years old. I’m an old man (he laughs).”
All joking aside, there are a lot of very young riders in MotoGP…
“Zarco did very well today and he was my nightmare in the tests. He was always ahead of me (he laughs). Both he and Folger surprised me. I think that the Yamaha is an excellent bike to start on in the premier class. That’s the way MotoGP is. Don’t hate me if you’re in SBK, but the best riders in the world are here and they are all very fast.”
Lorenzo, on the other hand, disappointed today.
“I know Jorge well. He is one of the best riders in the world. The Ducati is fast and you could see that with Dovizioso: I am sure that he will manage.”
The last thing we would like you to comment on is Morbidelli’s win.
“It was an honour to be able to help him and today he gave me goose bumps. I am sure that he has taken a definitive step forward and this year he will entertain us. I would also like to compliment my brother, Luca. He rode a crazy race.”