During the season's inaugural press conference in Qatar, Rossi and Quartararo are side by side, albeit separated by a 20-year age gap. “I was just saying to Fabio that he could be my son, I don't like that very much” laughs Valentino, complaining that there is “no longer respect for the elderly” in reference to his position at the edge of the table.
Joking aside, the Doctor does not seem to be feeling the weight of the years and still has the spirit of a youngster ready for his first day at school. He also has a wealth of experience on which to count of course.
“That serves for little, before starting there are no certainties - he explains - This goes for all riders, that's how it is after a two-month winter break, when you get back on the bike you're not even sure you still know how to ride. From this point of view, age counts for nothing, you still need to continue to work on your riding style, which is as important as the bike setting. After many years, you have to modernise”.
Is your new coach, Gavira, helping with this?
“His approach differs from that of Cadalora, who focused more on the bike, Idalio is more focused on the riding. In fact the more time passes, the more you have to adapt to bike changes, because they are becoming easier to ride but at the same time the limit increases, you can go increasingly fast. For example, you get used to riding in a certain way to make up for certain bike defects, but then the bike improves and you're carrying out pointless moves. Then there's another important aspect in our work”.
“Idalio is a person who motivates you, and at a certain age it's good to have someone who does that. I'm sure I'll be able to do a good job with him too, I got on well during the tests, but had no doubts as I knew all the Academy riders loved him”.
So you're ready to start?
“I'm very interested to see how I'll go over a real race weekend. On the last day of testing here in Qatar I had good pace and was also fast over the flying lap, I'd say we're starting with a fairly good base”.
What do you think about the playing field?
“i think everyone's very fast, on paper I've never seen such a level playing field. Right now, there are four manufacturers that can fight for the title, all of the factory riders seem sorted, expect us, so Ducati, Honda and Suzuki, and then I'm not forgetting riders like Morbidelli, Crutchlow, Quartararo and Bagnaia. You see? I've already named ten or so”.
How do you approach such a tough competition?
“By thinking only of oneself, doing your best and understanding that you might be on the podium one race and then battling for seventh in the next. I don't think we'll understand everyone's level after just one race, also because, with the Michelins, different tracks can impact on the performance of the various bikes”.