Valentino Rossi’s progress with the GP11 went backwards in Silverstone after finishing more than a minute behind Stoner.
Valentino Rossi ended a miserable debut at the Silverstone circuit with a lucky sixth place as the Italian conceded he was way off the pace throughout the entire British Grand Prix weekend. The 32-year-old finished over a minute behind a dominant Casey Stoner as the progress he’s made in recent races at Le Mans and Catalunya came to a shuddering halt in England.
“We have two problems,” Rossi said. “The first one is that Yamaha and Honda are faster than us. The second problem is the performance of Nicky. Always he is faster than me, but this morning in the warm-up I was faster than him and for the race they were able to improve a lot and my bike was still very difficult to ride. This means on the other side of the pit they work better than us and they are able to make a better result. The problem is we are too far away with the setting. We start too far away from a good setting and still have a problem on Sunday.”
Rossi said he was hopeful of a return to form at the forthcoming Dutch Grand Prix in Assen where he is expected to try an updated carbon fiber chassis.
“I expect this weekend will be difficult because I don’t ride well at this track,” Rossi said. “But in Assen I hope to come back at the level we had in Le Mans and Barcelona. This is the target. Considering how we came into the race, sixth place is a fairly positive result that helps us to stay not too far from the top of the standings in fourth, which isn’t bad. We knew that my lack of experience here compared to the others would hurt us, but it’s also true that we haven’t managed to improve our setup as well as we should have. We’re all responsible, me, the bike and the team, so together we’ll try to improve and take another step forward.”
Rossi’s struggles on the Ducati this season have become a topic of conversation throughout the paddock.
Rossi’s rivals are also surprised by the star’s slump. Stoner, Simoncelli and Lorenzo were all at a loss to explain Rossi’s struggle during the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Rossi finished a massive 3.761 seconds behind Stoner during qualifying as he found it difficult to improve corner entry grip with his factory Ducati GP11.
“It seems a bit strange because at the last races he’s been quite competitive, especially in the race,” Stoner said. “But he’s not been this far from the front. For me I’ve no understanding of what is going on, but he doesn’t look comfortable and he doesn’t look to be pushing the bike so much.”
Rossi’s former factory Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo, said he expected Rossi to be much closer to the front after he qualified his YZR-M1 machine in third position.
“In the first practice he was so far from the first position and I expected him to understand the track more and get closer to first position, but he didn’t,” Lorenzo said. “Watching on the video he doesn’t look comfortable and he is not riding easily. It seems he’s struggling and not feeling comfortable on the Ducati and I understand this feeling because in MotoGP when you don’t trust the bike and tires you’re so slow.”
Rossi’s compatriot, Simoncelli, who qualified on the front row for the fourth race in a row, added: “Sure it is strange to see Valentino Rossi down near the last position. It is difficult to understand the real situation but in the last few races he has been improving but on this track he doesn’t feel comfortable.”
Despite Rossi’s struggles, the Italian has finished fifth in three out of the last four races, and the distance between himself and the winning time has been coming down significantly as the Ducati has marginally improved. Rossi’s legendary crew chief, Jerry Burgess, says improvements are still required though to give Rossi any hope of getting in the fight at the front with Repsol Honda rider, Casey Stoner, and reigning world champion, Jorge Lorenzo.
A new more flexible carbon fiber chassis package should be ready in time for Rossi to evaluate at the forthcoming Assen round in Holland later this month.
Valentino Rossi: “The shoulder is not quite at 100%, but I am so happy. It was the first time without any painkillers and this was an important test.”
“Qatar we were 16 seconds off the lead, Portugal 16, Le Mans 14 and in Catalunya seven, so the position hasn’t changed much but we are getting closer to the leader,” said Burgess. “We need more of what we’ve already improved. We’ve got to keep making steps but we’re coming from a long way back and we’re trying to develop a bike that can be ridden fast and safely for the entire season and not just two or three races. We’ve got the right man on the job and I expect another step for Assen. It may not show dividends in Assen and it may only be small step, but it’s something we can try and improve.”
Now that Rossi’s right shoulder is almost fully recovered, Burgess said he might try old settings used in the winter now that the 32-year-old is capable of giving more accurate feedback. Rossi was still way below full fitness when he started testing the GP11 in Sepang back in early February, and Burgess believes some of his comments and information were heavily influenced by his physical state.
Burgess added: “There are a number of settings I’d like to go through with him again that we ran earlier and I think it would be beneficial. I think we can make big steps quite easy, but we have been there and it is a big change to the bike. When we did it before he wasn’t at his best and perhaps a lot of the stuff we changed we didn’t get the correct answer from him in the sense he wasn’t fit enough to ride the bike or understand how it was.”
Burgess also felt Rossi would have been more competitive in the Catalunya race last weekend but he spent the whole clash chasing Andrea Dovizioso for fourth.
Nicky Hayden has been consistently faster than Rossi this season, leading the nine-time champion to question what’s happening on the other side of the Ducati garage.
“I thought we would hit our straps in Catalunya a bit more than we did,” Burgess said. “We were only seven seconds behind but I felt that type of track would favor him. I felt we’d be there and again we weren’t that far away. In the section times, the last section where he had his biggest problem, the only two people faster were Lorenzo and Stoner.”
Rossi stated his right shoulder was close to 100% strength at the British MotoGP race at the Silverstone circuit. The 32-year-old has been troubled by a shoulder problem ever since he seriously damaged tendons and ligaments in a motocross training accident 14 months ago. The recovery from surgery in November was a slow and painful process, but the nine-time world champion finally believes he is nearing full fitness as he prepared for his first competitive appearance at the fast Silverstone track. Rossi missed last year’s race after he broke his right leg in a practice crash at Mugello, but he’s ridden the track having used a standard production Ducati 1198 to learn the circuit last month.
The race in Catalunya saw Rossi cope without painkillers for the first time in more than a year.
“The shoulder is not quite at 100%, but I am so happy,” Rossi said. “It was the first time without any painkillers and this was an important test. I have some pain in the hard braking but it doesn’t disturb my power. I need to improve the speed that I move the shoulder under the fairing. If you look on TV I need a bit more time than the other guys to find the right position, but I am close to the maximum. Now the gap is more the bike than me, though I can still improve my riding style with this bike.”