Valentino Rossi warns gap ‘too big’, Yamaha ‘10km/h’ down on rivals

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales urge Yamaha to find more speed from its 2020 MotoGP package... but it seems they are unlikely to get it

Valentino Rossi - Yamaha MotoGP

Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales have sounded a warning to Yamaha after concluding the 2020 M1 remains too slow relative to its MotoGP rivals, even though unlikely to get another significant upgrade before the start of the season.

Having begun working on the 2020 specification of the Yamaha M1 considerably earlier than its rivals, the manufacturer is already working on the third iteration of its latest engine.

However, while Vinales ended the final test of the year in Jerez on top of the timesheets, he intimates the 2020 specification Yamaha M1 doesn’t come close to addressing the issues that have plagued its 2019 season in terms of top speed.

“The feeling is good. The lap time is there. But if we don’t start first, we will get in trouble!" Vinales told, reflecting on the frequency Yamaha riders qualified well but fell vulnerable in races as they struggled to repel faster bikes in a straight line.

"Yamaha is working really hard, but today we see again we are 10ks [down] on top speed compared to Ducati. So we have to work harder. For sure in many other areas we are quite strong, but still in the weak point, we are at the same level right now.

"Maybe we improved a little bit at other tracks but here in Jerez it's the same [top speed difference]. So we need to keep concentrating and see what we can do for the next test in Sepang."

Rossi echoed his team-mate’s views, calling on Yamaha to continue working on bringing the engine up to a higher standard to give them a chance of challenging Honda and Ducati in 2020.

“For me the new engine is on the good way, but still the gap is very big because if you lose 9-10km/h at Jerez, when you have a track with a really long straight it's difficult. We feel something [from the new engine] but we need more. I hope that Yamaha are able to improve a little bit for next year."

Yamaha stands-off with its riders of 2020 MotoGP direction

Rossi and Vinales’ lukewarm reaction to the 2020 M1 will not provide much comfort for Yamaha, which has constantly faced calls by riders to work on engine development in order to give them a stronger armoury in race day battles.

The manufacturer has consciously swerved trying to extract more power from its package over fears it will adversely hamper a chassis that is superior through corners. While this is reflected in Yamaha’s excellent qualifying record in 2019, riders will no doubt be dissatisfied at feeling like they are going backwards on race day.

Of perhaps more concern is Fabio Quartararo – who scored six of Yamaha’s pole positions in 2019 – says he doesn’t feel as comfortable on the bike he trialled in Jerez, which used the full 2019-spec engine. He will get to try the 2020 bike in February.

The talk will no doubt come as a blow to Yamaha, who have been under pressure to bow to rider demands, but appear to have failed to provide a solution to the overriding – and long-term – problem despite repeated shaming in the media.

And yet, while Vinales and Rossi are holding out on another step by the time MotoGP testing resumes in Malaysia, Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli has warned they are already using ‘more or less’ what they will race with.

“Riders are always looking for more. But what we were looking for was to increase the smoothness, and we did. And to increase the top speed, and we did," Meregalli said.

"I think the area where we should try to do another step is the top speed and we are expecting we might receive an update in Sepang.

"But the base of the engine for next year is more-or-less this one."