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MotoGP, Meregalli: "Tests were bittersweet, still conservative on aerodynamics"

INTERVIEW - The Yamaha team manager: "we didn’t discard a single new thing, but 4 months are not enough to close the gap. Quartararo noticed the different approach, Rins amazed me with his sensitivity, Bartolini was a great coup"

MotoGP: Meregalli:

“The winter tests left me with a bittersweet taste”: with these words Massimo 'Maio' Meregalli, Yamaha team manager, described the impressions gathered first in Sepang and then in Losail. The tuning-fork manufacturer has rolled up its hands and asked itself a lot of questions, but to close the gap from its opponents - Ducati above all – a lot more is needed. Despite everything, the first results of the restructuring have already been seen: "we are happy because in Sepang as in Qatar we improved our times by at least half a second, but so did our opponents and the gap, for better or worse, remained the same” stated Meregalli.

In both tests we saw incredible times from everyone, how true are they?

“We found good conditions at Losail, already on the first outing, the track was in good condition and the lots of grip gives you the opportunity to improve your times. But I can guarantee that the values are true. We did a sprint race simulation, by chance, with Bastianini and Di Giannantonio and we saw how much we still have to work. They were definitely faster than us."

Did it surprise you?

“Even last year in the Sprint the gap with the Ducatis was greater than in the race, but we expected better after the progress we made. The new material we introduced has given good feedback: from the engine, to the aerodynamics, to the rear lowering device. There hasn't been a single new piece that has been discarded, this is the sweet I was talking about before. Furthermore, we are changing the way we work. Within our group we are satisfied, but in comparison with the others we see that we still have work to do."

At least top speed no longer seems like a problem, you are consistently among the best.

“In Sepang the speed sensor is very close to the braking point and we had doubts that it was due to Fabio, who brakes like an animal. At Losail, however, the measurement is 'pure', because it’s well before the braking. We have certainly taken a step forward with the engine, but I also think that our bike is more aerodynamically unloaded. Our opponents have greatly improved cornering speed by using aerodynamics to the detriment of drag and straight-line efficiency. The leap was a bit too big, we probably took one step forward and the others half a step back in this sense."

After many years of immobility, this year the shapes of the M1 are different from the past. Is aerodynamics the key point?

“Yes and we are only just at the beginning. Among the various manufacturers, we were the ones who were a little more traditionalist: we introduced a new wing, lower diffusers, different spoilers on the tail, but we haven't taken any risks yet. However, the direction is the same, you have to try to make the bike turn using aerodynamics while trying not to penalize drag too much. We will try to take advantage of the concessions that allow us to introduce two evolutions during the season. We should introduce the first by the Mugello GP."

Speaking of concessions, what is the testing program with the official riders?

“We will stop at Portimao where we will test on the Monday after the GP and then, upon returning from Le Mans, we will go to Mugello, together with the Test Team, to test on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday. If we don't lose the concessions after the summer break, the intention is to go to Misano after the race in Austria, therefore on 20 and 21 August."

What were Quartararo and Rins' impressions after the tests?

“Fabio recognized a different approach, it was what he expected and he saw that there had been a change, even with the arrival of Bartolini. In recent years we were never sure of the new material, but this year the main things were immediately approved and Quartararo noticed this. Alex was a nice surprise, I like his way of working, he is serious, clear, always calm and lucid even when there are inconveniences. He seems to us to be a very sensitive rider, as well as fast."

How important is it right now to have a rider with experience on other bikes?

“It's important, but riders get used to it so quickly that you have to take their impressions quickly after the first rides. Especially at Valencia, we tried to understand his feelings. However, he gave us a lot of information that engineers need to improve the bikes."

With Bartolini as technical director, it is the first time in Yamaha that a non-Japanese engineer has the same rank as a Japanese one. How is this Italian-Japanese combination working?

“It's part of this new approach. We're at the beginning, we should wait a bit before making judgements, but Max is working really well. He is bringing his experience, but also a way of doing things that we didn't have before and everyone felt it, from the riders to the mechanics to the Japanese technicians. While at the beginning I was afraid that everything would work as best as possible, now I can say that it turned out to be a great success."

Were you surprised by such great openness towards the outside on the part of the Japanese?

“In the end they too recognized that something needed to change, that the old approach no longer worked. We started two years ago with the collaboration with Marmorini, then the responsibility for aerodynamics passed a little more to Gerno di Lesmo, we began the collaboration with Dallara and Max arrived: it's a restructuring we're doing. It takes time, it wasn't easy to find the people we were looking for, and we are very happy because there is more and more collaboration between Italy and Japan. We all think that if we manage to bring together the European way of working with the Japanese one, we will create added value."

We are just a few days away from the start of the championship, will you still have to grit your teeth in the first races?

"Yes. Last year we were often told that we lacked speed and I always replied that the whole thing needed to be rearranged because there is only one straight and many corners. It will take time for Max too to integrate into a new working group and to better understand our bike. I'd like to see some results in the second half of the season, we can't think of closing the entire gap in 4 months."


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