After a good performance in FP3, it was looking as if Valentino could do more than ninth in qualifying. But the decisive session at Motegi did not go to plan, the Doctor revealing exactly why.
"We made a mistake in the garage with the second rear tyre, and there was no grip. What happened? We got the inflation pressure wrong. Third row is a pity, because I definitely could have improved on my time by a few tenths. I'd say the second row was within reach and would have better reflected my real potential”.
This is not the first time there's been a setback in the #46 garage, despite the team being so experienced. Perhaps the lack of results has an effect, causing oversights.
“When things are going badly, for sure everything becomes more difficult - comments the Doctor - It was an easy mistake, it can happy. I think other teams sometimes make mistakes too”.
The Japanese GP was meant to be an important test bench, to understand whether the progress made by the M1 at Buriram wasn't just a fluke. Rossi now has his answer.
“Unfortunately, I'd say we're not as fast as we were in Thailand. We are back to our normal level, my pace is nothing special, though many of us have similar speed”.
But Zarco is on the front row with the old M1…
“We can't say the 2016 bike is better than ours just because Johann is in front of us on one occasion. The championship standings tell a different story. Zarco did well in qualifying and is strong at this track, it won't be easy to beat him tomorrow”.
All in all, the Doctor is not pesimistic.
“If you ask me whether the podium is possible, right now I'd go more with no than yes. But then many of us have similar pace, so I expect a very open race. We need to work hard tonight and make the right tyre choice, because the second group will be very compact I think”.
Who is that?
“Myself, Rins and Maverick, with similar pace, and Zarco and Iannone who are slightly faster but not far off. I think Miller is a little worse off. As things stands, I'd say all those on the front three rows can fight for the podium. Although we've gone backwards in terms of performance compared to Buriram, the electronic updates do allow me to more constant, and that' important for the race”.
You need a little more....
“Ducati and Honda are better than us in acceleration. But I feel good with braking and want to make some other changes because I'm suffering too much in certain corners."