Valentino Rossi ‘a little bit worried’ ahead of pivotal MotoGP season

Valentino Rossi reveals the tyre degradation woes that hampered his 2019 season have returned ahead of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship opener

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Valentino Rossi has conceded he is ‘a little bit worried’ coming into the opening round of the 2020 MotoGP World Championship after the tyre degradation woes that afflicted his 2019 campaign returned to haunt him on the final day of testing.

The Italian heads into a crucial 2020 MotoGP campaign undecided over whether he will continue beyond this season or call time on his career, with his competitiveness during the opening rounds set to play a crucial part in this decision.

The seven-time premier class champion was comfortably outpaced by Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo in 2019, Rossi explaining his dip in form as being down to rear tyre degradation over the course of a race.

Indeed, though it was a problem that hampered all Yamaha riders at times in 2019, the issue was more magnified by Rossi because he often failed to qualify as strongly as Vinales and Quartararo.

While it has been a fairly strong pre-season for Rossi – albeit generally adrift of the pace of his stablemates – he says the problems with rear tyre life returned on the final day of testing.

"Today we are a little bit worried because - not so much about the position, because unfortunately I crashed with the second tyre and I think I could have improved the lap time - but more about the pace," said Rossi, who featured in the top three during the final day but was eventually left twelfth in terms of best lap.

“We tried to make a long run, but we had some problems with the tyres very similar to last year. So it looks like, that after some laps, unfortunately I have to slow down so this is not good news.

"I feel good with the bike. I am quite fast, especially in the first 5-6 laps my pace is good. Unfortunately, [at the moment] it's not enough to try for the win.

"But now the tests are finished and we will see during the race weekends. In the races, it‘s always different."

Yamaha the manufacturer to beat ahead of MotoGP opener?

Viewed in isolation, Rossi’s results during pre-season testing have been fairly good. The Italian rarely worries about pumping in a fast lap time, not least because it is over a longer distance where he needs to focus on improvements.

However, compared with Vinales, Quartararo and even Franco Morbidelli there has been little evidence he has the performance over a single lap or a race distance to come close them.

At the end of Monday’s race simulation Vinales and Quartararo were pumping in 1m 54.7s and 1m 54.9s times by lap eight. By contrast, Rossi was coming through with a 1m 55.8s.

It will be a last-minute crisis of confidence for Rossi at the end of a test where Yamaha will otherwise be attempting to temper their own having largely dominated proceedings from day one in Sepang. It was quickest on five of the six days contested, with Vinales, Quartararo and Morbidelli filling out the top three on Qatar’s combined timesheets.

Granted it’s worth noting we have been here before with a quick Yamaha in testing, while there is no denying over a single lap it was quick in 2019 too, but a glance at the race simulations shows are more notable step in performance, especially in the wake of Ducati and Honda’s relative struggles.

As it stands, Yamaha appears to have the most sorted MotoGP bike… but it doesn’t belong to Rossi.