And he is deeply worried for Sunday’s opening race of the 2014 season, claiming his Yamaha M1 is “at the limit” and beyond suffocated by new technical rules.
And there is more. Rossi has joined teammate Jorge Lorenzo in claims that the 2014 specification Bridgestone rear tire, built using a heat layering technology, has robbed the M1 of its silky smooth handling at lean angle in corners.
“We need to wait for Sunday because if the race will be funny maybe it is the right way, but who pays the most are the four riders that arrived in front last year,” Rossi said after finishing 10th overall in free practice.
“Yamaha and Honda have paid very much with the new rules.”
At the 5.3-kilometer Doha circuit with its long front straight that requires tall gearing, Rossi says his M1 feels air-powered under the power-starving 20 liter limit for factory entries.
Unheralded Spanish rider Aleix Espargaro – with the gift of 24 liters and a soft tire in the open class – has set the fastest times and made a mockery of the factory rules.
“On 20 liters the bike is very slow. On the straight nothing happens and it is a bad feeling,” Rossi said.
“It is a long, long time that I tried a bike so slow. Now with 20 liters the engine goes with air.”
“I am worried about this for the race because we are very much at the limit. The number one favourite for the victory will be Espargaro because he is the only one able to go fast, also with the hard tire, which is our soft and I think everybody will race with the same tire.
“Dovizioso and Iannone on the Ducatis are very fast with the extra soft tire but after when they put in the hard tire we have eight or nine riders that have exactly the same pace.
“So it means Marquez, Pedrosa, Lorenzo, me and also Bradl can all fight for the podium.”
Ducati are also big beneficiaries of a very generous gift in the rules.
Because of their embarrassing and self-inflicted under performance in recent seasons – a legacy left by former Ducati Corse boss Filippo Preziosi – Ducati will start the season with 24 liters and access to the soft tire option.
Officially Ducati is a factory entry like Honda and Yamaha but have not won a race for three years.
Rossi is now also suffering similar problems to Lorenzo with the latest Bridgestone tire spec which has had much less impact on the performance of the Honda RC213V.
“We suffer a lot with the new tire of Bridgestone and for us the grip on the edge is not enough and the bike becomes difficult to ride,” Rossi said.
Despite his critical assessments Rossi says that the unknown performance comparisons across the multi-class rules in race conditions could trigger some enthralling battles.
“There is more confusion because everybody has the same rhythm (for the race),” he said.
“The Ducati is very strong even with the hard tire and the bike improves a lot with 24 liters. And Espargaro rides very well, he is in a great shape, very confident and maybe the 24 liters is not just a big help in the straight but also in the corner with engine braking and opening the throttle.
“The bike is easier to ride but he deserves it because he is fast.”
While decidedly unhappy at being slower than teammate Lorenzo in practice, Rossi awaits the reality check of Sunday’s race.
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