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Impressing under the floodlights in his 12th season in the MotoGP™ paddock, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) began his 2018 season with a strong pace, something he believes he didn’t have when he found himself in the same position 12 months ago.
Rossi on being 'hunted by the wolves' in Qatar!
Starting the race from the third row of the grid after a tough qualifying session, the Italian put in remarkable opening lap to get up into fourth, but had a battle of ten riders to contend with.
Highlights: Dovizioso wins duel to the line with Marquez
With no breakaway rider in the first half of the race, the top ten stayed together and were all lapping with competitive times, of which Rossi explained it was difficult to assess if he had podium pace: “This year the problem was that the first ten riders had a very similar pace, so you had to wait for the whole race to see what was enough for the podium. But I am happy because in the last period, the strongest on the track were Dovizioso and Marquez, so to stay with them until the end is a good way to start the season”.
Rossi: "I knew that I could have a good race"
Clearly riding with a comfortable pace on his YZF-M1, Rossi made a small mistake when trying to pass fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), which put him out of immediate contention for the win: “I didn’t want to overtake Zarco, but after you overtake there is slipstream and air, and this is difficult to control so I went wide and at the moment Marquez overtook, who was followed by Dovi. I tried to overtake, but at that moment all the wolves behind were attacking – they were trying to take a leg or my arm! Without that mistake I might have had the pace to fight for the win with these guys, but I don’t know if I am able to win.”
Comparing his race to that of last year at the Losail International Circuit, it’s clear the 39 year old is a lot happier with 2018’s race: “It’s a very good way to start the season, for me personally it’s a different situation to last year. Arriving on the podium last year was a surprise, one I didn’t expect to at all especially after the warm-up, but this time I knew I could do a good race.”
Don't miss Rossi's reaction to Marquez's run off!
Struggling down in 10th throughout the sessions last season, Rossi went into the 2017 opener concerned with pace but turned it around in the race – however this year he was much happier with his pace overall. Adding about 2018 he says: “I am happy because when Dovi went in front I knew they were going to change the rhythm, and that moment was the key moment for me to fight for the podium. I knew I had to overtake Zarco, and I had to give the maximum to go with them. I knew that through some points of the track I was fast, so to arrive at the end on the podium is a great way to start.”
Looking ahead to the second race in Argentina, Rossi explains his thought process’ through changing the setting of his YZF-M1 this weekend and his outlook ahead: “After qualifying I was not very happy about the balance, and we modified it to save the front tyre. This meant we saved the tyre, but lost speed so on Sunday we tried everything and if not, then ‘ciao’. We were able to improve everything, but the good and the bad will change from one track to another, and the difference will be big, so no one knows what will happen in Argentina.”
2018 Qatar Grand Prix: MotoGP™ Full Race