In the end, Yamaha found itself depending on the talents of Valentino Rossi. Despite a Saturday to forget, the Doctor was reborn come race day, able to move up from fourteenth to final fifth position. While, on the one hand, he can be pleased with his performance, doubts remain as to the competitiveness of the M1 compared to the competition.
“I'm pleased, in that it was a good race and I recovered well - begins #46 – I was able to make many passes, finishing just six tenths from the front. It's a pity about fifth place, but my performance was positive. The fact remains that, at the end of these three days, we're in the same position as we were a year ago. The level is more or less the same. In 2018, here at Losail, we were able to work well in practice and qualifying, while this year we struggled more”.
What's the main difficulty with the M1?
“The tyre was sliding around a lot, but despite that I was able to push without having consumption issues. That's not the case at other tracks though. Apart from that, compared to Honda and Ducati, we're suffering in terms of top speed, but particularly acceleration out of the turns, where we're lacking grip”.
Is it better to see the glass as half full at the end of the weekend?
“I'm pleased with my own performance, I ran a good race. The problem is that we finished behind Ducati, Honda and also Suzuki. Cal proved more competitive here than he was last year and Rins too, so we have work to do”.
What did the team change between qualifying and race day?
“We focused on balancing the bike, as we struggled with the front on Saturday. The tyre worked well and I was able to push and have fun. As I've said, the issue is that we're more or less at the same level as 2018”.
Vinales proved disappointing having scored pole. Did you expect that?
“Maverick was impressive in qualifying, but when he's with the others in the race, he suffers in teams of acceleration and corner exit. The fact is that in MotoGP everything can change from one session to the next and there are many aspect to consider, like the tyres and the weather”.
Looking at the times, the race was slow. Do you think the frontrunners used a particular strategy?
“I think so, as you can't always push to the max. This is how it is right now though, as you have to conserve the tyres for the final part. You see it in F1 to some extent too. I don't know how we can fix this”.
How is it that you were only able to turn things around come race day?
“i wouldn't know, we have our own time frame in Yamaha. We need to work out how to suffer less, especially in qualifying. If I'd started further forward on the grid, it would have been better. All we can do is look ahead to Argentina, where I hope to find better conditions than we had in 2018”.