Fourth place in qualifying last Saturday on the fast Losail circuit, three tenths away from Bagnaia, had gotten him excited. The twelfth place in the race, just over 12 seconds behind the winner, Maverick Vinales, however, brought down to earth the expectations of Valentino Rossi, who was dissatisfied with his opening race of the season in the Qatar GP.
What slowed him down was the rapid deterioration of his rear Michelin. A problem that Vale has been having for some time now. But what can be done about it, given that Maverick does not seem to suffer from the same problem, while Fabio Quartararo, albeit complaining about it, finished in fifth position?
"In the first race I was not fast like I want, so we will try to change something in the setting of the bike to improve the life of the rear tyre," Rossi explained. "And we see. We've worked hard, we see all the data and we have to try to improve. Looks like Maverick has something different in the setting of the bike and in the electronic system, they make some other settings. It's very difficult to put exactly the same settings because every rider has some small differences, but during this weekend we can try to follow another way by modifying something and we hope that we can be stronger in the race."
One wonders if the Yamaha M1 2021 is actually better than the previous one…
“The chassis is new, and it turns a little better - explains Valentino - but its real potential should be expressed on tighter tracks than Losail, which has many fast corners. In the tests we also tried new aerodynamics, more protective and better for me because I am taller. We worked on aerodynamics and on the straight we gained a few kilometres. We will use it for the entire season. To the eye it is a little better ".
Rossi: "The tyre started to degrade immediately, Fabio also suffered, but he was faster"
In short, it seems that the nine-time world champion will have a lot of work to do this second weekend on the same track.
"I spoke with Fabio Quartararo after the race and Fabio had a similar problem to me. Also Fabio is a bit different compared to Maverick. So this data is for sure important to try to understand. Fabio had a similar problem but anyway he was able to be stronger than me, at the end he finished P5. So we have to work under that point of view because I started to have problems very early in the race, because already after 7-8 laps I was in big trouble and had to slow down. So all the work will be focussed on this point of view and we have to try to improve the life of the rear tyre because I think that we can go a lot faster than last Sunday."
How much faster? Also because Franco Morbidelli himself had a bad race… misery loves company?
"It's true, there are many good riders on the track, but last Sunday was not our potential: we need to be faster. We spoke to each other, Franco and I, but we didn't manage to put on a brave face, we are both disappointed, and each one of us had his own problems. We expect to improve ”.
Rossi: "We will never go back to the respect there was in the ‘90s. That's the way the world is now."
In Valentino Rossi’s difficult Grand Prix there was also a collision avoided with Binder. It is becoming difficult to fight in the Bronx of the race ...
“In reality, fighting in the top five or behind it doesn't change. It doesn't depend very much on the position but from the different riders. But you have a lot of riders that are more clean and ride with more respect for their opponents and some other riders like Binder that ride a lot more hard and don't care about their rivals. So if you try to close the line, he releases the brake and if you don't move he hits you out of the track. But now it’s like this. Respect is too big a word, but it’s difficult to understand the limit, because usually in the past sometimes you touch another rider but you tried not to. Now some riders just think of their own race, not about the others."
Rossi: "If we were more direct and sanguine on social media, endless controversies would arise"
It must be said that respect between riders was always linked to personality in the past. Until the ‘90s there were the tough guys, those with whom it was better to respect the unwritten rules of scraps, however fierce. In the race and in practice, when for example Eddie Lawson entered Schwantz's garage during practice with all his bike to show his rival the hole for a move that was perhaps a little too close to the limit...
"When I was young, for me the approach was a bit different compared to now. The young riders had a lot more respect for the old riders compared to now! But I think this is a general way of the world, not just MotoGP. Now it's not exactly like this, but in that moment I raced with riders that had a lot of experience like for example Kazuto Sakata, Ueda or de Radigues. And when I saw them, they were like my heroes. So for me it was true, but at the end I'm very happy for the number of podiums in my career because I think it's a great achievement! Behaving as it used to be, is no longer possible. Now there are many more cameras, more pressure from outside, and if you did something real, sincere and sanguine, they would start with those controversies on social networks that would exhaust you every week. Today we must be politically correct. The world is like this. The old days will never come back ”.