Valentino Rossi has conceded that his hopes of lifting the MotoGP world championship in 2020 are very slim, after a poor start to the delayed season last weekend in Jerez.
The nine-time world champion went into 2020 as something of a dark horse to many, amid hopes that he could exploit a shortened and compressed calendar to finally clinch his elusive 10th grand prix title by winning for the first time since 2009.
However, after first suffering with tyre life woes in last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and then failing to finish the race due to a technical problem on his Monster Energy Yamaha, Rossi admitted on the eve of the second round that he doesn’t yet see himself as part of the title race when asked by The Race.
“First of all, I have zero points!” Rossi said. “That’s a shame, because when you have zero at the beginning of the championship it’s always difficult. But apart from the technical problem in the first race, I was already suffering too much and I was too slow.
“We still need time to work on the bike and to improve ourselves. The championship is shorter than usual this year but it is still long, and right now we will concentrate on improving ourselves rather than on the title. We will work hard for sure.”
Rossi has had a rough time of late on the Yamaha M1, trying to find a solution that will allow him to remain competitive especially in the closing laps of races.
He has been unable to get the full benefit out of Michelin’s new rear tyre the way his fellow Yamaha riders have, but it at least sounds now like Rossi and his team have found the right direction to work in after months of looking lost.
“I have to say that in the last years, the riding style in MotoGP has changed very much. In a lot of places and in a lot of corners, you need to do the right thing for the tyres more than you need to arrive properly into the corner. It’s not an easy thing to change.
“I have a lot of experience, but sometimes that’s a problem because you need to come in with an open mind and change things a lot. We’ve changed the balance of the bike a lot to help us enter [corners] fast and make the most of my style and I’ve tried to change what I’m doing too.
“The step compared to last week is very good though, and we need to continue working in this way now.”
One thing is for sure though – Rossi knows that he and his rivals face a tough day tomorrow in the second consecutive race at Jerez. With the forecast predicting that the Andalucian Grand Prix will be even hotter than last week’s race of attrition (with the mercury possibly even topping 40ºC), the 41-year-old isn’t expecting the race to be a pleasant experience.
“It looks like it’s difficult for everyone here. This afternoon was hot and tomorrow will be another step – I think it will be the hottest MotoGP race that I’ve ever seen. The situation is right at the limit, and it’s going to be a great challenge for everyone to complete 25 laps.
“I will start from a good position and my pace isn’t so bad, even if we’re still losing a bit in some places and have some work to do.”
Starting from fourth on the grid and showing good pace in practice are strong signs for Rossi, but one niggle does still remain for him – the root cause of last week’s technical problem that took him out of the race.
Yamaha added more power to the M1’s engine for 2020 in an attempt to close the top-speed gap to rivals, but there are worrying reports coming out of the Iwata camp about engine longevity concerns.
And with Yamaha reportedly dispatching engines straight back to Japan for analysis after last week’s race, both Rossi and teammate Maverick Viñales have already used three of the five sealed powerplants due to last them for the entire 13-race season.