On Sunday Valentino Rossi will compete in his 400th Grand Prix at Phillip Island, while today marks another anniversary, albeit one not worthy of a celebration. The Doctor secured his ninth world title on 25 October 2009. “I didn't realise, so much time has passed - he admits - But this is not the time to think about winning. I've had some tough races recently and need to improve step by step. The priority is to solve my problems”.
Perhaps Valentino has taken a step forward in this sense. On day one in Australia, he finished 4th in the wet and 7th in the dry, a performance he is both satisfied and slightly surprised with.
“It's gone better than I expected to be honest” he confirms.
Is this down to the track or progress made with the bike?
“This is a unique track, but today I got on bettter with the M1 compared to recent races. We made some changes that I didn't like at Motegi and then we also had some bad luck, otherwise I could have finished 6th as my pace wasn't that bad”.
It appears that you're more comfortable in the wet than the dry right now.
“Recently, we've made changes to the bike in wet conditions, but I was never comfortable. Today we took a step back and I immediately got on better. In those conditions, Marquez, Vinales and Miller were faster than me but not by much”.
And in the dry?
“Also there, I didn't much like the changes made in Japan, while today I felt better on the M1.- This is a track where you need to be confident on the bike because there are some very fast turns, and I already have good balance. Tyre consumption also seems to be under control, but I wasn't able to compelte many laps but I wanted to try all the options seeing as rain is forecast again tomorrow”.
How's the playing field looking?
“We're all close in the dry, aside from Vinales and Marquez who are the fastest. I'm 7th but only a tenth from Dovizioso, who's 3rd. We need to work to be sure about the tyres, because we haven't decided on the front or rear yet”.
Vinales was the quickest in both sessions, could his data help you?
“It's always useful to see what he's doing no track. I think Maverick began to make progress at Silverstone and now he's at this level, he's one of the fastest riders and today he made the difference”.
What is the aim for Sunday?
“It's always hard to say on Friday, I'd like to be more competitive than in recent races though. It's all quite an unknown for now, it will also depend on what happens tomorrow and what conditions are like on Sunday”.
What do you think about the new rear tyres provided by Michelin?
“They've done a good job, they are better than what we're using this year. They offer more grip, especially on corner exit”.