Valentino Rossi admitted a second successive Honda 1-2 was cause for concern after he failed to battle for a podium in a controversial Spanish MotoGP race in Jerez yesterday.
The Italian finished in a lonely fourth place after an early tussle with Repsol Honda rookie Marc Marquez, who went onto make all the headlines with an aggressive last corner pass on the last lap to snatch second from reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo.
The 27-lap race was the second in a row that the 34-year-old has been out of podium contention and after only three races he is already 18-points behind Marquez in the title hunt.
A lack of rear grip was Rossi’s main issue in the race and he had not expected Honda duo Dani Pedrosa and Marquez to be so strong.
During winter testing at Jerez in much cooler conditions. Yamaha’s YZR-M1 had been fastest with Cal Crutchlow, while Rossi had finished a close second.
Much hotter temperatures swung the pendulum firmly back in favour of Honda, with Pedrosa taking an impressive first win of the season in front of a massive crowd of over 111,000 fans.
Rossi said: “Sincerely we struggled more than what we expect because with the high temperature we don’t have enough rear traction. I was very confident to use the hard tyre in this condition but unfortunately we don’t have enough grip, so we have to work on the soft and we suffer a bit. We made a modification for the race and the bike was better and I did a good start and I was able to pass Cal at the first corner and I also overtake Marc. But unfortunately the three guys in front are faster than me. Not a lot but just a bit in every lap. When Marc passed me the second time I wasn’t able to go with him and Jorge. There was a part of the race where I could do the same lap time but the gap was already big and at the end I can’t go faster and I couldn’t get in the battle.”
Rossi said yesterday’s race illustrated that Yamaha has to improve rear tyre life in the future to have a chance of competing with the dominant Honda RC213V.
Honda has now won 12 out of the last 15 races and Rossi said: “For sure I wanted to try and get on the podium but we are not able and we finish fourth to take some good points for the championship and we have to work a lot. Firstly because Lorenzo is faster than us and also we have together with Yamaha to improve the bike because we are a bit worried. Here in Jerez we expected to arrive in front of the Hondas and we are not able to do it. We need to use these tyres in a better way because it looks like Honda is able to keep a better rhythm after some laps when our bike starts to slide a bit too much in acceleration.”
For more exclusive coverage of Marquez’s controversial late move in Jerez, see the May 8 issue of MCN.