Rossi knew he couldn't ditch 2017 bike

Rossi knew he couldn't ditch 2017 bike
By AutoSport

04/04/2017 at 11:41Updated

Valentino Rossi concedes he knew switching back to Yamaha's 2016 MotoGP bike was not an option for this campaign when he was struggling pre-season.

Rossi has been overshadowed by new team-mate Maverick Vinales, recruited to replace Jorge Lorenzo, since winter testing started at Valencia last November.

Vinales led that session and all three pre-season tests, before winning the 2017 opener in Qatar last month.

While Rossi struggled for front-end feeling and pace on corner entry, including in practice at the Losail circuit, he regrouped to move from 10th to third in the race and join Vinales on the podium.

Crediting a practice set-up breakthrough for that result, Rossi said he knew switching back to the 2016-specification Yamaha - used by Tech3 rookie Johan Zarco to lead early in Qatar - was never really on the cards.

"We improved the setting, especially to give me good stability for entry and also my team made a good modification to the front," he said of the Qatar race. "I was strong on braking.

"At the beginning I felt better with the '16 [bike] but Yamaha is more happy if I use the '17.

"Also, [Vinales] can ride the '17 so maybe I need more time but I can also ride that bike.

"For the factory team it's better to have the same bike.

"We have to continue like this. This result is very good for us, both for our feeling and also for the technical side, because we now understand a lot of things."

Rossi was initially unimpressed by the 2017 M1, crashing on the first day at Valencia, but felt the team made a breakthrough in understanding it one week later in a private test at Sepang.

While Rossi subsequently trailed Vinales in all three early-2017 tests, Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli praised the 38-year-old's resilience during that time and his "salvage" ride the Qatar race itself.

"Winter tests were really challenging for him and he's never given up, together with his team, to try to find the right feeling with the 2017 bike," Meregalli said.

"Third place is the result of the deep dedication and massive effort he and his crew put into [the Qatar] race."