Valentino Rossi believes Yamaha’s MotoGP bike is “more or less” in the same position it was last year, despite an impressive recovery in the Qatar Grand Prix.
Rossi struggled in the cool evening conditions on Friday and Saturday in Qatar, but having qualified 14th he finished the race fifth, just six tenths behind winner Andrea Dovizioso.
The Italian said his bike’s competitiveness on Sunday was a “positive surprise”, but insisted his feeling with the Yamaha, as well as the bike’s weaknesses, have not changed since 2018.
“For me, the problems are more or less the same. In some areas we have improved but unfortunately we always struggle with the rear grip and is difficult,” he said.
“Today my bike was good, because if you don’t have a good bike you don’t arrive close to the victory or the podium.
“Last year I was stronger in practice. At the end, in the race this year it was more or less the same as last year, just I started further behind and I was able to come back.
“The problem is that our level of performance is similar to 2018 at this moment.
“For some reason here the tyres slide but resist. Other tracks where the tyres slide, the performance drops more.
“It’s very difficult because this year the gap in the top speed is very high. But the problem is not just the top speed, it’s the acceleration from the corners.
“It looks like the other bikes, Honda and Ducati but also Suzuki, have more grip and more power, so on acceleration we lose.
“It’s also for that reason that the maximum speed is far [from the fastest bikes]. The problem is this, the exit from the corner.”
Rossi added that while Yamaha is close to its 2018 level, Suzuki’s gains over the winter means the team will still need to improve even more.
“The problem is that we are behind Ducati, Honda, a non-factory Honda [Cal Crutchlow’s LCR bike] and a Suzuki [Alex Rins].
“Suzuki are strong. Cal was very strong last year [but] I was able to beat him and Cal is more or less on the same level.
“The bigger improvement is from the Suzuki so for me, we have to work.”