Floating just at the edge of the Top Ten, where they need to be to go straight through to Q2, is not exactly what Valentino and Viñales were expecting. By the Doctor’s own admission, Jerez was to be a litmus test for the competitiveness of the Yamaha and at the moment it has not returned any reassuring results.
In the morning, the start was good (6th best time for Rossi just a couple of tenths behind the leader), but the second session showed the M1’s weaknesses (9th time and a gap of more than 6 tenths). The hope is that the weekend may take a different turn.
“It was a difficult day – Valentino was forced to admit – In the first session, with the lower temperatures, the bike and tyres worked better. In the afternoon, on the other hand, the heat arrived and we struggled more. I am not happy with the balance of the bike.”
This means that the best competition is in the lead and Honda and Ducati seem to have been joined by Suzuki as well.
“The top 5 or 6 riders are faster than us – the Doctor cuts to the chase – This track is famous for making the tyres slide. The new asphalt helps a bit, but not enough and we struggle in that area. The rear slides around a lot and after a few laps we have to slow our pace.”
Plus, Yamaha’s decision not to test in Jerez over the winter complicated things.
“It is a disadvantage, but maybe the fact that we are the only ones who didn’t test here means that we have more room for improvement – the feeble hope – Talking with the Moto2 and Moto3 riders, I had formed an idea of what the new asphalt would be like. They did a good job – not excellent because there are still a few problems on the first turn and turn 9 and some patching was done.”
Notwithstanding the asphalt conditions, Valentino was still able to get an idea of the M1’s level.
“I said that this would be a key GP for two reasons: because we struggled here last year and because there is poor grip – he explained – What I felt today on the bike is what I already knew: I find the current M1 better to ride than last year’s, but in acceleration there is a lot to do. Honda and Ducati took a huge step forward.”
The thing that most worries the Doctor is the Japanese bike.
“They had made an initial improvement last year in mid-season and over the winter there was another improvement – he analyses – A year ago, they suffered with the front tyre. They had to use the hardest option, whereas now they are fast on any tyre and with all the riders. That means that they found a good balance.”
What Yamaha is still lacking. In any case, Rossi still likes riding in Jerez very much, having won here 9 times.
“Now that the circuit is named after Angel Nieto it is an even better feeling – he pointed out – In my mind, this is the true Grand Prix of Spain, just as Mugello is for Italy. The history is here and it is perfect that this track was named for Angel.”