Far from being a day of rest, on Sunday, the real work of testing began at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. After a day to wrap their collective heads around the mind-bending speeds which riding a MotoGP bike involves, the riders got down to the work of sifting through the collection of parts the factories have brought in their quest for victory. And in racing, victory only comes through speed.
Questions were raised, and some were answered, though only partially in most cases. That doesn't matter as much as it might at a normal test, of course, because the riders and teams will only be heading back to their hotels for two days, to relax a little, to recover (for the riders), or to dive as deeply as possible into the data to try to learn as many lessons as possible ahead of the next test, which starts on Wednesday.
So what did we learn? A quick run through MotoGP's six manufacturers.
The big question for Yamaha was whether the 2021 chassis was the step forward that the riders had been hoping for. The 2021 chassis is not so much a step forward as half a step back a compromise between last year's frame and the 2019 chassis which Franco Morbidelli used to such good effect in 2020.
As you can see in the photos below, the 2021 chassis is very similar indeed to the 2019 frame.
The photo above is Fabio Quartararo's bike from Qatar; the 2020 engine in a chassis similar to the 2019 M1.
Compare the 2021 frame with Valentino Rossi's machine from the Sepang test in 2019. The two frames share the bracing tube between the two sections of the frame side beams.
That bracing tube is conspicuously missing from the 2020 frame, which used a reworked upper section of the frame beam. This is one of the test bikes from the Sepang test in February 2020.
Is the new frame as good as the 2019 example? Not if you are Valentino Rossi. "Today we continued to use both chassis, but my impression at the end of the two days is that it's very similar to last year's bike," the Italian veteran said. "No, not very similar to the 2019 chassis. It's something between. But when I ride I feel very, very similar to the 2020." That would explain why Rossi ended the day in twentieth spot, 1.7 seconds behind the fastest man Fabio Quartararo, and unable to improve his time from yesterday.
Quartararo was more cautiously optimistic, but he also hadn't found as much improvement as he had hoped. "It's not yet the same feeling as the 2019 chassis," the factory Yamaha rider told us. "I hope it will come, but we are working on it. I think it's really important, because the chassis of the 2019 bike was just unbelievable. And we are on the way. We want to take that direction, because it's clear that was the best compromise. So we are going in that way. Feeling wise it's not the same, but we still have three days to improve our feeling, and try to be as close as possible to the 2019 chassis."
Sunday had been a much better day than Saturday for Quartararo, however. "Today the feeling was much better. It's still difficult to evaluate because we don't stay with the same package as yesterday, we are still trying many things, also a swingarm. So it was not easy to say clear comments about the 2021 chassis. Swingarm we still need to see but the feeling was not the best today. But we need to try it better, and in all conditions. So for sure in three days we will try it again."
Quartararo had been fast, and that had left him optimistic, at least. "Of course the feedback is good, we make great lap time, great pace," the Frenchman said. But he also sounded a note of caution. "For sure the bike is great, but we need to see, because also last year with the 2020 bike, we were fast here. We need to evaluate these two days, it will be great to see the data with the team, and to see the direction."
Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales had not spent much time working with the 2021 bike, preferring to work on himself. "Well, actually we didn't work yet with the new chassis," Viñales said. "We just had the old package and a few general things in the second bike. And I concentrated a lot on riding style, I concentrated a lot on hitting a good lap time, don't get too stressed on the bike, trying to get the flow. We worked with the electronics quite a lot."
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