Valentino Rossi won't be able to leave Jerez with a smile this time either, even if a little bit sugar was useful to make the medicine go down. The problem, however, is that the podium has always been too far away for the Doctor. Despite everything, he remained in the lead in the rankings, and the 9-point disadvantage from Marquez isn't a big deal.
"I didn't know what to expect from this weekend," he explained. "And, unfortunately, I never managed to be fast enough. Before leaving for Spain, I had hoped with all my heart to be as competitive as in Austin but, as each turn passed, I realized that I would have to play in defence.”
Vinales reached the podium. Has Yamaha improved compared to the past?
"I had a better race than last year, where I finished 5th, but only because many riders had fallen. I kept a good pace, even in the final laps. The distance from the podium decreased, and I lowered my race time by more than 20 seconds."
You mounted the hard tire on the front, while Maverick used a medium one. Did you make the right decision?
"It was a decision made at the last minute because the temperatures were rising. I'm really curious to see how it would be to ride again with the medium. Maybe I would have been a little faster. The truth, though, is that my weekend got complicated after FP3, when I missed direct access to Q2. If I had started in a better position, I would have probably been able to keep up with Maverick and the Ducati."
Can you be optimistic after this race?
"We're stronger than 2018. The championship is still long, and the challenge is difficult, but we're going in the right direction. However, I can't be entirely happy today because I wanted to fight for the podium, and I didn't succeed."
You're not too far behind in the rankings...
"That's true, I'm not far, but the real problem in that the championship bears Marquez's name. If he hadn't fallen in Austin, his advantage would be higher, and Dovizioso and Rins are also very strong. I believe we can fight to get on the podium and win races. I must stay close to the best in the rankings. When you are, it's all more fun because you have an important goal. Certainly, Marc and Honda seem to be the perfect combination: the best rider on the best bike. We'll have to do our best.”
How much is it the rider's merit and how much the bike?
"Can't say anything about Marc. You can't say he wins because of his bike. Yet, I don't see all the Hondas in such difficulty. Crutchlow took the podium in Qatar, and it could have been repeated in Argentina and Texas without the false start and the fall. I would say that the Honda is good, and Marquez is the rider who interprets it in the best way."
But now there'll be tracks that are favorable for Yamaha on paper...
"But Marquez will be fast there, too. Last year, I was on the podium at Le Mans, Mugello, and Barcelona, but always in third place. We'll have to do better and work hard."
What's curious is that Marquez was the oldest rider both in the front row and on the podium here in Jerez...
"At 26? He’s damned old!" he said laughing. “The important thing is the result. When you win, no one can tell you anything. When young riders arrive, everything becomes more difficult, but I'm talking about myself and not Marc, of course. You find yourself on the other side of the fence. You have to keep calm and see the positives. You can learn from them and beating them is a challenge that gives you motivation."
Is that what happens with your riders at the Riders Academy?
"Yes, they can learn from me and I from them. I can also talk a lot with Yamaha's Morbidelli, both about the set-ups as well as the choice of tires."
Is the Petronas team helping you with developing the M1?
"In the past two years, we had a moment of confusion because the innovations didn't work. Without taking anything away from Zarco, he was often faster because the old material worked better. Now the four M1s are very similar to each other, and this makes development easier. To be clear, I believe that the human factor made the difference in Jerez, as in the case of Quartararo, who I believe will be a tough opponent to beat even in the future."