Manuel Pecino / Photos courtesy Yamaha MotoGP – Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
Do you know that Valentino Rossi has the second highest number of practice kilometers (Nakagami is first) after the three races held so far? Do you know who has the second highest number of practice laps out of the 22 that took part in the GP of the Americas? Yes, also Valentino Rossi.
The shift in how Yamaha manages races following a frustrating last year has resulted in a strong start to the season, and so has its role model rider. Two second places and a fourth has Rossi second in the championship upon the arrival to Europe, although even more importantly is the sense of having returned to a very high level of competitiveness.
While the numbers remind us how long ago his last victory was, it’s likely that Valentino is the least concerned about this, as he demonstrated in the United States. Experience is his degree and Rossi is perfectly aware that his chances for the championship change regularly. He assumes Marc Márquez is the rider to beat; he is faster than him so he has to capitalize on Marc’s mistake…or Honda’s.
Things being as they are, consistency is required, as is finishing each race on the podium. So far he has participated in one race, Qatar, where the speed differential of his Yamaha made it impossible for him to win at Losail. But he made a fantastic comeback put him in the lead group. Once there, his chance crashed against the wall of technical logic.
But it’s no less true that in Texas he won a match against Márquez, and another in Argentina against the other official title contender, Andrea Dovizioso. He beat the Spaniard due to Marc’s error, and beat the Ducati rider with the finish line in sight. Keeping a cool head during his duel with Rins in Qatar, accepted second against the same rider in Austin after having led a good part of the race shows that the old lion races with his head, the same head that he used to plan overtaking Dovizioso in Argentina for two laps.
After the Termas race, Valentino told his people how when he was riding on the wheel of the Desmosedici, he had decided he was going to take Ducati’s second place on the podium. He also told them he was laughing behind his helmet thinking about his strategy and congratulating himself on how clever he was, and how in the moment he thought that he lost a moment’s concentration and that was when Dovizioso suddenly got ahead by meters.
Jerez was a very ‘Rossi’ track in the past, it paradoxically has been especially hostile to the Yamaha during the dark period of 2017 and 2018.
Motivated by the new competitiveness that Yamaha’s internal restructuring undertaken over the winter sparked—there is talk of “Michelle Gada and his boys”—Valentino has left the apathy of the first three quarters of last season behind and has managed to infect the working group with enthusiasm to be competitive.
Now the championship comes to friendly waters, Europe, where the circuits are smaller, narrower and not as fast. Jerez is the first venue. While it was a very ‘Rossi’ track in the past, it paradoxically has been especially hostile to the Yamaha during the dark period of 2017 and especially 2018.
It will be interesting to see if the work done this winter in Iwata has brought back the old feeling at Jerez. If so, the Valentino podium is almost a certainty. A victory at last? It will be difficult, because the pack of Spanish riders will run with extra motivation at home. Especially Marc Márquez, who likes to neutralize his mistakes—in this case the one from Texas—with a resounding victory in the race immediately afterwards…Surely Valentino will know to wait for his turn.
When it comes to assessing the start of Viñales season, there is no other way to say that it has been disappointing.If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that Maverick nabbed an authoritative pole in Qatar, that he placed second in Argentina and that he was on the second row in Texas at a circuit that is not friendly to the Yamaha.
But the mood drops when lap by lap you see how in Losail he dropped to seventh in the first lap of the race, fourth in Termas and seventh at the Circuit of the Americas. In those races his final results were seventh, unclassified and eleventh…How can that be?
If you look at the statistics, you’ll see that Maverick nabbed an authoritative pole in Qatar, that he placed second in Argentina and that he was on the second row in Texas at a circuit that is not friendly to the Yamaha. But the mood drops when…
It is true that there is a chance on the horizon, that three races out of 19 have been held, that with 400 points at stake the 40 fewer he has with respect to the leader Dovizioso are nothing, but the impression that Maverick is left with this beginning do not predict a change in the dynamics.
Here at Motosprint we have stated over and over that if the Spanish rider does not solve his problems with starting and his lack of aggressiveness during the first stages of the race, a winning rider will not be seen. This must become the absolute priority for the rider, the team and for Yamaha.
Franco Morbidelli / Fabio Quartararo
It must be emphasized that both Quartararo and Morbidelli have qualified in the three GPs for Q2. The riders for the new Petronas team, directed by Wilco Zeelenberg, have taken a role that Zarco and Syahrin played in their day thanks to the M1, so generous with riders in the learning phase it is. In this sense Quartararo is displaying a consistency that paradoxically neither had shown either in Moto3 or Moto2.
The French rider is tenth in the provisional championship, but surely would be higher if he had not been blocked on the starting grid in Losail. From Fabio you can expect good races at the next GPs, especially Le Mans, his home race and a very, very Yamaha circuit.
It must be emphasized that both Quartararo and Morbidelli have qualified in the three GPs for Q2.
As for Morbidelli, Franco took the three extra European races as part of the season to do his best and try not to make mistakes. In Losail he finished below expectations—11th—and in Argentina he did not finish the race, while in Texas, after a more aggressive attitude, he finished with an excellent fifth position after having started from the tenth position on the grid.