Valentino's worst fears came true on day one at the Red Bull Ring, “the worst track for the Yamaha” he calls it. A technical setback complicated the morning's dry session and he missed out on the top ten, and direct access to Q2, by just a few thousands of a second. Things didn't improve when it started to rain either.
“Today I've also been a little unlucky. The biggest problem is not having quite having done enough for the top ten. If conditions tomorrow morning don't allow us to improve then the problem might be bigger, I'd be in a difficult situation”.
What happened to your M1?
“The rear sprocket broke, it's subjected to a lot of stress at a track like this, with such acceleration. I tried to bring the bike back to the garage but I couldn't use it. I had to get on the other, on which we were trying some different solutions”.
“A different weight distribution and setting to try and conserve the tyres more. We saw some results but there was a drop in performance. I could have been quicker with the other bike”.
How much quicker?
“This is a tough track for us, we have the usual acceleration issues and, due to the layout, the gap to our rivals is greater”.
You made full use of the wet session…
“Actually, I only stayed out to practice the start (he laughs). It was interesting to test the M1 in the wet as we hadn't had chance for a long while, and I get on well with the new bike in terms of braking and corner entry. But, in the wet, our electronics issue are more pronounced, as is the gap to the front. This afternoon I was two seconds back, we can do better in the dry but it will be tough anyway”.
There were worries about this track in the wet…
“In effect, it's very slippery and a lot of water remains on the surface. The most dangerous point is the braking at turn 4, where you brake with the bike leaning, but there's a lot of aquaplaning along the straight too. We tried a deflector in the front of the rear wheel, it works but it will be dangerous to race if it rains heavily”.
You need to defend second place in the championship…
“I won't say it was an effort to achieve that, but it's a good performance. Aside from Argentina, in the first part of the season I was top five in every race and, although I haven't won, I've scored a number of podiums - I haven't thrown anything anyway”.
The Ducatis are fighting back…
“I'm ahead of them because they have had some bad luck and made some mistakes. It will be tough to maintain my position against Dovi and Lorenzo. On Sunday it will be important to bring home points, I think it'll be hard to finish in front of them”.
How do you move forward in this situation?
“You need to hang on to what you have, focus on scoring points to finish the season as far forward as possible. We know our potential, there are tracks where we can be quicker, like Brno, and slower, but to reach the podium we need someone to give us a gift. I always try, it's important to stay motivated or it all becomes more difficult”.