Valentino Rossi admitted he expected to be much faster at the start of the Sepang MotoGP round in Malaysia today after the Italian could only finish a rain-hit first day of practice in a lowly 11th.
A lack of acceleration grip and chronic understeer – issues that have tormented the 33-year-old throughout his disastrous time at Ducati – were the biggest issues on a day where he finished 1.6s behind the best pace set by in-form Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa.
The changes that Rossi made to his factory Ducati GP12 to help with acceleration grip in Japan last weekend didn’t transfer to the long and technical Sepang circuit.
The nine-times world champion could only set a best time of 2.03.274 and he told MCN he simply wasn’t fast enough.
He said: “Today was not very good for us. This morning I was slower than what I expect because in Motegi we made quite a big modification to the bike to increase the rear grip in acceleration and in Japan it was an improvement.
"We decided to try it today in first practice but it didn’t work and I have more problems. I lose a lot this morning and I can’t be as fast as I want. At the end I ride with just the old tyre but we have to go faster.
"For this afternoon we wanted to try a more normal setting but it rained and it was very difficult to understand anything.
"We have to wait and see what happens, especially with the tyres because I am quite worried. Nicky (Hayden) tried the hard tyre this morning, but as always the hard tyre is very difficult to ride. And with the soft tyre I tried to do 18 laps but not in a row and at the end it was a big disaster because it is too soft.
"I hope we can use the hard for the race and if the condition of the track improves it is better for the hard tyre because with more grip and less sliding the tyre can resist more. We will try tomorrow a more normal setting and we will see.”
Explaining his specific issues today that prevented him from attacking the fast sections like Turns 3 and 5 like he wanted to, Rossi said: “I had a lot of understeer and I was losing a lot in the long corners. I think we can be faster with a more normal setting but it depends how much.
"Turn 5 I lose very much, also Turn 3 and the last part before the back straight. It is in the long corners with more load and weight on the rear, so the front pushes and I have too much understeer.”
Rossi also said the condition of the Sepang surface was gradually deteriorating and not helping him find a better pace with the GP12.
He added: “The conditions are very bad. The asphalt is coming very old and if you are able to do two or three days in a row without a lot of rain then you can improve a lot. But when it is raining a lot you start always from a low grip level and you get a lot of chatter.
"It is a great pity for us that this afternoon it rains because we have a more normal setting to understand if we make progress from the winter.”