Rossi: Yamaha has to continue like this

Valentino Rossi confident Yamaha has improved its rear-grip problems but warns 'in the last two years, we started not so bad, then later in the season the other factories overtook us'.
Rossi: Yamaha has to continue like this

Valentino Rossi finished the opening night of the Qatar MotoGP test in an optimistic mood, predicting that Yamaha can be 'a bit stronger' than last year due to improvements in rear grip conservation.

But The Doctor also warned that, despite team-mate Maverick Vinales setting the fastest lap, he feels Yamaha are not completely out of the woods yet with more hard work needed to 'recover the gap'.

Riding for the first time since turning 40 - "The feeling is very similar! I hoped 40 might feel better!" - the Italian set the fifth fastest lap time, 0.553s from Vinales.

"I'm quite happy, I'm more optimistic, especially because we work well, and there's a good atmosphere in the team, and it looks like Yamaha is more concentrated and more motivated compared to the last two years," Rossi said.

"Already in Sepang we tried something which improved the bike. Something improved, something didn't, but that's normal.

"For me, it's a long work. We need to work very hard, it's not just three months to recover the gap. But the impression is not so bad, and for me, we can be a bit stronger than last year.

"We always suffered a bit with rear grip, and at this track that's very important. But also the degradation of the tyre, we suffered very much last year, especially the last five laps. And it looks like we made some small improvement, and that's already important.

"Some things arrived at the first test, but Yamaha has to continue through the season. Because in the last two years, we started not so bad, but then later in the season the other factories overtook us."

Whereas the main task for the opening test at Sepang had been to evaluate new parts, this weekend is more about preparation for the grand prix.

"We focus more on setup for the race. We don't have any new stuff compared to Malaysia, but we know in Malaysia it was a different work, because we had a lot of new stuff to try," Rossi explained.

"Here we concentrate more on the setting of the bike because we have to prepare the race. But at the same time, we have to retry something, because this is a different track.

"So we have to reconfirm what we understood in Sepang, but we worked especially on the setting of the bike, and try to understand the tyre and everything."

Asked for his opinion on the penalty lane concept being trialed by Race Direction at the test, whereby instead of being asked to drop a position during a race, a rider might instead be forced to lose time by riding through a marked lane in the asphalt run-off.

"It's a bit tricky, but it's possible. They say that you lose three seconds. I think a little bit more, but it's not so bad," Rossi said. "For me, it's more right compared to giving up one position, because sometimes if you give up one position, sometimes you lose half a second, but sometimes you lose five seconds.

"This loop is always the same [time loss], so it's not so bad."

Testing in Qatar continues on Sunday and Monday.