Valentino Rossi might have to roll the dice on tyre choice for tomorrow’s Malaysian MotoGP clash at the Sepang International Circuit after he ended qualifying in a lowly 11th place.
Rossi has had major issues making Bridgestone’s hard and soft rear tyre options work in the extreme Malaysian heat and humidity and he could only manage a best lap of 2.01.783 in this afternoon’s qualifying session.
That left the 33-year-old almost 1.5s behind Jorge Lorenzo’s pole position pace and he told MCN: “The result is quite bad and we are not happy for sure. In the middle of the session my speed was not so bad because we did a modification to the setting and I improved a lot, especially with the hard tyre. I can do four or five laps with a good pace and I was quite optimistic for the end of the session. But unfortunately with the soft tyres I had a lot of vibration on the front and a lot of chatter. I can improve my lap time a little bit but it was not enough. The second soft tyre at the end had too much vibration and unfortunately I was not able to improve my lap time and I have to start far back on the grid. It is worse than what I expect but we have to wait for the race. It will be very important to understand our pace because all the riders close to me on the grid like (Nicky) Hayden, (Hector) Barbera, (Alvaro) Bautista and (Stefan) Bradl have a similar pace to me. The important thing will be to make a good start and overtake some guys to improve my position. The big question mark remains the tyre choice, especially for the rear because with the soft for me it is very difficult after six or seven laps. But we don’t know the life and potential of the hard tyre after this number of laps. The front tyre at the end Nicky tried the soft and it looked like he improved a lot the chattering issue, so I want to try the soft front tomorrow and we will see what happens in the race. I am not so bad with the hard but we are quite worried to use it because if the hard starts to spin a lot on the right we will lose too much.”
Rossi also had a crash in this morning’s final practice session when he tumbled out at the first corner on his first flying lap.
Explaining the low speed fall he said: “Our problem is that when we are very much on the edge, we have a lot of vibration from the front. It is very difficult and you have a dangerous feeling when you touch the throttle on the very edge and you have big lean angle because the front always vibrates and if you open the throttle a little bit more you lose the front. This afternoon the feeling improved a little bit. We had a safer feeling but the vibration remains very high and maybe trying the soft tyre will help the chatter.”
Rossi’s spill did provide a comedy moment when he grappled with a marshal trying to push his Desmosedici off the track.
Rossi was seen tugging at the bib worn by the track worker and when he kept pushing Rossi’s GP12, Rossi grabbed his shoulder to get his attention.
Rossi joked: “He’s not a marshal he is a bandit (laughs). I think he wanted to steal the Desmosedici. But the bike wasn’t damaged. Just the footpeg was broken but he wanted my bike. It was funny. Maybe he is a big Ducati fan.”