Rossi rises in Qatar after 'step back' to Sepang

Valentino Rossi puts a miserable Sunday behind him and ends 2019 MotoGP pre-season on a positive note after reverting to Sepang spec.
Rossi rises in Qatar after 'step back' to Sepang

After a 'slow' and 'difficult' Sunday in Qatar, Valentino Rossi and Monster Yamaha made a step back to go forward on the final night of MotoGP pre-season testing.

Rossi was a lowly 19th on the timesheets during day two, but the change of approach allowed the Italian to end the test with a positive fourth on the Monday timesheets.

"You are never ready like you want to be [for the new season]! But today was a good day, we worked in a good way," Rossi said.

"Yesterday, we worked hard and tried a lot of things, maybe too many. At the end, I lost the feeling. I didn't have enough feeling to push. Yesterday was a very difficult day.

"But today, we made a step back, and we used more the stuff that I liked also in Malaysia, and I feel better with the bike."

Rossi was kept in the pits for an hour by a technical problem, but "especially in the last hour and a half I was good.

"I was quite strong with race tyres; my pace is quite good and also in the time attack I'm not so bad.

"I think we need something more to try to fight but today we closed the gap very much, because we put it all the stuff together. So I think for this night, we are ready, and now we see in two weeks if it's enough."

Rossi's best lap was 0.443s behind test leading team-mate Maverick Vinales, on a night when all four Yamahas were inside the top six.

The Doctor confirmed the M1 is clearly strong on new tyres at Losail, but remains at a disadvantage for race pace.

"For Qatar, we have a lot of Yamahas in the front for the time attack. This is good. We are strong with the new tyres. Also Franco [sixth] and Quartararo [second].

"But for me, for the race pace, we are still at a bit of a disadvantage, especially compared to the top guys, who are Márquez, Dovi, Rins.

"But for example, Maverick is very strong. So this is positive for Yamaha. The test at the end is not so bad, and now we have to see next week."

Vinales had also aired concerns about rear grip and acceleration in terms of fighting for victory in the season-opening race on March 10, while highlighting a 10km/h straight-line deficit.

Rossi said it's nothing new and thinks its manageable.

"Sincerely, we fight with top speed since 2004. And more or less, we are always in the same boat, so from yesterday to today, we can't do anything," Rossi said. "But I was behind the Ducati, and with the slipstream, we can stay [with them]."

Tracing the development of the 2019 M1 after his first winless season with Yamaha ended at Valencia, Rossi explained:

"In the last two tests of 2018, we didn't have a lot of things, sincerely. But this year in Sepang, Yamaha worked during the winter, and we had something good.

"Also in Sepang, in the time attack I was not very fast, but the pace was quite good.

"I think that we made an improvement, but my idea is that we still need something more, especially to fight with the top guys, the factory Hondas, and the factory Ducatis. This is my idea.

"But we hope to work at the maximum next week, and try to fight.

"For me, Maverick is in a great shape, he rides very well. Here and in Malaysia, he was always in front. And the other name is Rins, who is very fast, and who rides very well, and it looks like the Suzuki has improved because also Mir is fast.

"And the two factory Ducatis. Always Dovizioso is very strong here in Qatar, but also Petrucci was impressive in the test. And for sure Márquez. These are for me the guys who will be in the top."

Free practice for the Qatar MotoGP, Rossi's 24th grand prix season, begins on March 8.