"Was Marquez there, too? I didn't see him. That’s why I didn't win,” Valentino laughed, after finishing second in Argentina. Marc simply played at another table, but the Doctor rediscovered the pleasure of riding, fighting, and beating his opponents.
A few years ago, a second place would have been accepted half-heartedly, but Rossi comes from a long fast that lasted eight months.
"This podium came at an important moment for me, Yamaha, and my team," he emphasized. "I needed this result because it's been since the Sachsenring GP that I haven't been in one of the first three places. I could have done it in the last two races last year, but I fell, and that left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Today, I rode like when I was younger," he said, jokingly.
By the way, 23 years ago, at this time, you were competing in your first world championship race...
"I recently saw the images of that Grand Prix. They were in black and white (laughing). I stay here because I like it. During the first part of my career, I won a lot. Then, you get to a point where everything becomes more difficult. So, you have to decide: either you stay home and stare at your trophies or you continue to compete because you enjoy yourself doing so. The latter is my case."
Today wasn't a struggle-free day...
"Before taking off, I thought there were 6 riders who could have aimed for the podium. Instead, there were 7. I stayed up front because I felt good, although I wasn't as fast as yesterday. Dovizioso was good at getting to the front, and we were able to make the difference, little by little. I saw the timesheets that indicated we had 5 riders behind us, then there was only us two left to have it out."
Was it difficult to find the right strategy to get the best of Dovizioso?
"I honestly expected to have a better pace than his, but it wasn't like that. Maybe because it was hotter. I was behind him, but I saw that I was two or three points faster, and I took advantage of them on the last lap."
Were you sure you could do it?
"I knew I had a chance. I tried not to make even the slightest mistake because Dovi is the intersecting king (laughing). It was a great adrenaline rush. I was precise. Winning a battle on the last lap, especially against Andrea, is always exciting."
What made the difference?
"The tires. I had a medium on the rear and Dovi had a soft. Maybe he made more of an effort in the end. I was sure of my decision. The soft was fine, but it didn't convince me at all. There's never a right choice for everyone. It depends on the bike and on the rider."
Morbidelli also gave you a hard time...
"Franco was strong, but I knew it. We often duel it out at the Ranch, too. I'm sorry for how his race ended.”
After this race, can you say that Yamaha has definitely improved?
"It's hard to say. It depends from track to track. There's a nice group of bikes and competitive riders. The challenge is difficult, but they're working. Certainly, the qualifications are crucial because everyone can squeeze everything they have out of the tires and, if you make a small mistake, you end up 13th. But I reached the qualifications in top shape here because we worked well from the very start.”
The only negative thing was the gap that Marquez presented you with...
"My glass certainly remains half full. I'm pleased to be third in the championship behind the two favorites. I have to think, race-by-race, for now. We're working hard, but the challenge is still difficult. Marquez and Dovizioso remain the favorites. We have to try to fight, and then hope to get closer to Marc. I would have preferred getting 3 seconds instead of 10... at least I would have seen him!"