Former MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden fears Valentino Rossi’s switch to Bridgestone tyres in 2008 will make it tougher for Michelin to fight back next season.
Bridgestone now has Valentino Rossi and new world champion Casey Stoner using its tyres in 2008, and Nicky Hayden believes the Italian’s departure could weaken Michelin’s capability to retaliate after a nightmare 2007 campaign.
Michelin won just six races in 2007, while Bridgestone romped to 12 victories, with 10 of those coming from dominant factory Ducati rider Casey Stoner.
Nicky Hayden and Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa also pushed for Bridgestone tyres next season, but HRC agreed to continue with Michelin after a request was rejected.
Valentino Rossi did successfully manoeuvre a deal to Bridgestone tyres, and he will make his debut on the Japanese rubber in Jerez, Spain later this month.
And American Nicky Hayden is concerned development will suffer at Michelin with Valentino Rossi gone.
“I think he’s (Rossi) had a lot of problems with tyres. I hope Michelin improves because we can’t have another year like we had this year.
“Part of me wishes he would just stay on Michelin. He’s really good at developing the tyres and one more guy over at Bridgestone developing isn’t going to help,” said the 26-year-old.
Nicky Hayden though did admit Valentino Rossi’s move would give Michelin an extra incentive to wrestle back the world title.
He added: “It’s going to be big motivation for Michelin. He’s won on Yamaha, he’s won on Honda, but he’s only won on Michelin.”
And Nicky Hayden believes Valentino Rossi will be under severe pressure to seriously threaten Stoner in 2008 now that he has the same tyres as the Australian.
“He’s already taking heat from it. He’s got to make it work,” added Hayden, who got his first ride on Honda’s new 2008 factory RC212V 800 machine in Valencia this week.
See next week’s MCN, available from Wednesday, November 14, 2007 for a full report on the first winter test.