Despite everything, Valentino Rossi at 42 years of age (and 26 in the world championship) still manages to get excited about everything. It happened today, in Qatar, when the numbers 1’53.993 appeared on the dashboard of his Yamaha, his best time which earned him eighth place in the standings. "I had never lapped so fast here in Losail and it is not such a foregone conclusion – commented the Doctor - My first time in 1’53" was a satisfaction, it is true that the tyres and bikes have improved, but it is not so obvious to do so. It means that I am up there, that I’m riding well ”.
A nice change after your disappointment following the first test…
“Today I had good feelings, we were able to improve my performance by working a lot and finding new solutions. Everyone was very fast, but I managed to improve my position and pace, it was a positive day ”.
What is the reason for this step forward?
"The setting first of all, we found a solution that gives me more confidence at the front, I can enter the corners harder. Then to the innovations brought by Yamaha, I am talking about the 2021 frame. The more kilometres I do, I am able to get more out of it and that’s good news, last year I was struggling to turn the bike while now I am able to ride better ”.
Did you need a day like this?
“Last year I made some mistakes, in Barcelona and in the second race at Misano, then I caught Covid and when I returned I struggled so much, I was far from my best. This test is important because I again have better performance, we were able to sort out the bike ”.
Are you more optimistic about the future?
“I think I am preparing better for this season and I hope we will have a more normal championship. I would like to be able to race the GPs in Europe at the right time, not like last year when we raced in Jerez with 50 degrees and at Le Mans in October. In addition, I hope that only in Qatar there will be two races on the same track ”.
So even at the age of 42 you can be fast?
"I have seen that with age the only problem is having to train a lot more, but if you do that you can do a 45-minute race with good performances. In normal life, however, I find it harder to climb stairs after a workout (laughs), the biggest difference is the recovery time ”.
As for the working method in the box: has it changed in Petronas?
“No, I get along well with David (Munoz, his chief engineer, ed.), I am more focused on riding, I report my feelings to him and then I leave it to him. I like the atmosphere in the team, but the real change from the first test was in the balance of the bike. Being able to improve always gives you motivation ”.
You also tried a brand new fender today…
"From what I understand it should improve both the aerodynamics and cooling, but I don't like it because the bike becomes more difficult to ride. Improving the top speed is important, I pushed a lot with Yamaha to work on this point, even if engine development is frozen. They did a good job, we still lose 10 km/h from the Ducatis but the gap is smaller than last year ”.
Despite everything, today there were three Yamahas at the top of the standings.
“It is a very good sign, we are all in good shape but we will have to wait for the race to understand how it will go when we are in the group. I saw Vinales very strong, as well as Quartararo, then there is Morbidelli, the two factory Ducatis and the Suzukis. We have a very similar pace and tomorrow we can still work, I'm not far from the best ”.