Valentino Rossi will start Sunday’s Austrian MotoGP from just seventh on the grid after unexpected tyre issues in his final qualifying run.
The Movistar Yamaha rider broke into the top ten during a ‘good’ morning session, putting him directly into Qualifying 2.
Rossi was holding a provisional fourth on the grid after his first qualifying attack, but could only find a tenth of a second after his pit stop and dropped to seventh (+0.747s).
“So, it was a good Saturday from this morning, because already from the first exit we improve a lot the balance of the bike, I feel comfortable nd I was always quite competitive,” Rossi began.
“During the afternoon I tried some different tyre options and I always had a quite good pace.
“Also with the first soft tyre for qualifying I was quite strong, but unfortunately the second tyre doesn’t work very well. I had less grip and a lot of spin. I try to push at the maximum, but was impossible to improve.
“I think my potential can be in the top five, for sure, or even the front row. But unfortunately sometimes it happens and this time it happened to me.”
Asked about Rossi’s problems later in the evening, Michelin’s Nicolas Goubert replied:
“We’ve not found anything. He did tell us he couldn’t find the grip he was expecting to. He improved his lap time by one tenth. Which is not big. So he expected more grip and we are checking with the Yamaha guys what could have been the reason.
“I have to start from the third row. That is always quite difficult, maybe in this track also more. But my pace is not so bad. So we have to try to push from the beginning to the end and we see,” he said.
“Also wait for the weather conditions tomorrow and I think that the tyre choice will be very crucial, very important, because all the tyre options are open. So will be very important to make the right choice.”
Rossi and team-mate Maverick Vinales were using the latest Yamaha ‘downforce’ fairing on Saturday, something of a surprise given The Doctor previously doubted it would be a benefit at this track.
“I liked the new cowling from the first test in Brno, but sincerely I think – together with my team – this is not the best track for it,” he confirmed. “But yesterday we had a lot of wheelie issues, so we decide to test because it helps for the wheelie. It’s good to ride, it gives me help and also it’s beautiful so I think that we will use.”
Will top speed (with the fairing) and fuel consumption be an issue tomorrow?
“I think and I hope not a big problem, but I will tell you tomorrow after the race! Because we don’t know. With the fuel, this track is very demanding but I think that we can stay [at full power].”
With Honda’s world championship leader Marc Marquez and the factory Ducatis of Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo occupying the front row of the grid, Rossi was asked why the Yamaha has dropped behind.
“For me the situation here is very similar to last year, but we are closer to the Ducati, because last year they had more advantage,” he explained. “But the biggest step is from the Honda. Honda was in trouble last year. This year they are very strong, but also last year they didn’t make the test before the race and Marquez also had an injury in practice.
“But we work hard, we try always something good. We know this track is not the best for the M1, but I think that the first seven or eight – maybe more – are looking very. very good tomorrow.”
The Italian is fourth in the championship, 22 points from Marquez, meaning he is in danger of slipping more than one-race win from the title lead if the Spaniard beats him on Sunday.
Vinales, second to Marquez in the standings, qualified in fourth.