The opening race in Qatar is similar to the first day of school. It’s the adrenaline of a new adventure and the subtle tension that it’s time to be serious. Whether it’s the 22nd season, like for Valentino Rossi, or the first one in MotoGP as for Zarco, Rins, Folger or Lowes, the feeling is the same. Only the level of pressure changes.
“If this is the first day of school, I’m like the student who repeats the year,” joked Valentino Rossi at Qatar, “even if it’s a long time that I race, the first round is always an emotional moment”.
The winter was more complicated than expected for the Number 46 who found a new strong rival inside his garage: the 22 year old Maverick Vinales who literally dominated the winter test.
Speaking about his new team mate, Rossi commented: “Lorenzo was very strong but Vinales looks stronger. I knew that Maverick would have been fast as well, he but I didn’t expect him to be so fast from the beginning. It was a surprise. The M1 in 2017 requires a different setting and slightly different riding style compared to last year. Vinales has managed to interpret it better. Together with the team, Maverick found a very good feeling from the first test, while I’m still working on the bike set up. Why am I struggling? I don’t know, otherwise we would have found a solution.”
The people around the 9 time world champion reassures that the situation is not so bad as the Doctor paints it and that he will be there when it counts, which means on Sunday. But Rossi is very lucid in his analysis.
“It’s always difficult to say, because the situation changes but I have to improve my pace to stay in the second group. Right now, I need to take a step forward to try to be in the top 5.”
Rossi believes the MotoGP field will be as competitive as it was last season, which saw nine different riders and four manufacturers win races during the year.
“As always, the level is very high, and this year more,” said Rossi. “So you can have seven, eight riders that try to win races and try to fight for the championship, this is great. Vinales and Marquez are the toughest, they were very fast in testing, but the same can be said for Ducati, both with Dovizioso and Lorenzo. Then let’s not forget Pedrosa .. see, I’ve already named five or six”.
“Regarding myself, I never started with the attitude that I need to win the championship. The target has always been scoring podiums and winning races. This is the attitude also this year.”