Valentino Rossi has admitted that he doesn’t think that Yamaha’s revised new 2021 M1 chassis will make the difference that the factory was hoping for, after getting a chance to test the new bike in detail today at the second day of action in Qatar.
Concentrating mainly on the 2020 machine on Saturday as he got back up to speed after the winter break, Rossi had completed only a handful of laps with the new chassis by the end of the day. However, able to jump on it for longer on Sunday, he walked away from the two-day test sounding disappointed that the hoped-for changes have not materialised.
The centrepiece of Yamaha’s testing program is set to revolve around a chassis designed to give the same sensations as the 2019 model used successfully by Franco Morbidelli last year, but with retooled engine mounts to hold the slightly different 2020 engine and its frozen design.
It is an attempt to make the factory-spec M1 less sensitive to changing conditions and to widen the range in which it can be fast – but Rossi’s feedback was underwhelming after back-to-back testing it alongside his old bike from last year.
“We continued to use both chassis today, but my impression at the end of the two days is that this year’s is very similar to last year’s,” he conceded afterwards. “It’s not very similar to the 2019 chassis.
“It’s something between the two of them, and when I rode it, it felt very similar to the 2020 bike.”
That comes as particularly bad news to Rossi after a difficult test, as he admitted that many of his problems of the past few years have persisted, the Italian struggling with acceleration and rear tyre grip on corner exit.
“I was not very fast from the beginning,” he said after finishing the test a distant 19th on combined times, “and we struggled from the start with the tyres, with the grip. We tried some different things but we didn’t find a very good solution, so in the end it was a difficult day.
“We’re suffering with acceleration, because I don’t have a lot of rear grip, and we’re trying to change the bike with the settings in these two days. Now we’ve got two days to check the data and to try and be more competitive at the next test.”
Rossi’s comments hint at a more underlying problem with Yamaha’s engine, which has grown increasingly torquey and less rider-friendly in recent years as the factory attempts to solve its acceleration issues with more horsepower.
And this issue is not something that Yamaha is likely to be able to significantly improve during the coming season if the new frame hasn’t been able to mitigate the problem.
Rossi’s fellow Yamaha riders weren’t convinced either, albeit not quite as emphatically so.
Testing not just the chassis but also a number of new components including a new swing arm, Rossi’s works team replacement Fabio Quartararo says that the upcoming three days of testing at the same track (following a two-day break) will be crucial in figuring out how things really are.
“It’s still difficult to evaluate,” admitted the session-topping Frenchman, “because we haven’t been using the same package.
“I tried many things today, and it’s hard to give clear comments about the 2021 chassis.
“The feeling wasn’t the best today, but we need to try it more in all conditions, and in three days we’ll try it again.”