A podium at Mugello is a medal that every rider is proud to wear around his neck, even Valentino, who needs Wikipedia to remember how many times he’s been on those steps. “It’s worth it to race all year long to get on the podium here. I’m not joking: all the training, travel and efforts made to continue being a rider pay off” admitted Rossi.
His was not an easy race. He struggled, gritted his teeth, battled with the tyres and above all with Iannone, but his efforts paid off.
“It was one of the hardest races I can remember in recent times – he explains – For me, the hardest tyre on the front wasn’t a choice, but a must to finish the race. However, the steering kept closing up and I couldn’t push. Yesterday’s pole position was crucial in achieving this result.”
Did you expect you would have to struggle this much?
“Yes, and at a certain point of the race, when Rins had also overtaken me, I thought I’d lost the podium. But I held onto a hope: he, Iannone and Petrucci had the soft tyre on the front and I hoped that they would wear down. It happened.”
You said it wouldn’t be a race of strategy…
“And instead it was. When I looked at the other riders, their tyre choices flashed up like on TV (laughing). Seeing Marquez fall, I realised that I had to be even more careful.”
Did his mistake surprise you?
“Marquez has a style of racing on the attack. This time the tyre didn’t forgive him.”
The podium has placed you in second place overall in the championship…
“To be honest, I didn’t think I would find myself in this position. It means that we did not waste anything in these races but I won’t forget that the best result achieved this season is third place. If we want to be in the running for the title, we need to be faster and right now we aren’t fast enough.”
But it is the second podium in a row…
“We have improved the balance of the M1 and we can take advantage of its qualities when there is grip, like in qualifying when the tyres are new. In the second part of the race, however, we struggle more than Honda and Ducati. We need a hand from Japan. They know what our problem is and I have explained it clearly. We have a long and complicated road ahead of us, but Yamaha has already begun.”
Is that a declaration of surrender?
“Absolutely not. I’ll keep trying, I can assure you of that. Right now, I would hope to be battling for the win starting from the second half of the season.”
Good things come to those who wait. It worked for Lorenzo with Ducati. Did he surprise you?
“It’s hard to be surprised when a rider of Jorge’s calibre wins. The process to succeed with Ducati is difficult. It takes time, because it is a very different bike from the Yamaha he was used to riding. It isn’t easy for anyone to do it, but when I analysed the time sheets yesterday, I realised that today he could win.”
Pleased or concerned that he’ll be back with Yamaha next year?
“I’ll be honest, I’d like to only have brand teammates who go slowly (laughing). All joking aside, there are pros and cons but riders like him give motivation. The real problem is another one: in my opinion, it is a mistake to close contracts so early. Practically, some riders risk having to gamble with their future in the first 3 races and that’s not right.”
What’s the solution?
“It would be easy to say they should start talking after the first half of the season, but it’s something that is impossible to control.”
Did you know that you had reached 5,000 career points?
“It’s a nice result, but I want to win.”