Watch any session of MotoGP practice and at some point, you will see Valentino Rossi enter the garage, sit down, and start talking animatedly to two people. One, a balding mustachioed red-headed man, is Silvano Galbusera, the crew chief who replaced Jeremy Burgess at the end of 2013. The other, tall, slim, dark-haired, and invariably bearing a laptop, is Matteo Flamigni, Valentino Rossi's data engineer.
Together, this triumvirate work at perfecting a setup for Rossi's Yamaha M1, each with their separate roles. The data engineer seeking out where the bike can be improved, the crew chief finding ways to improve it, and the rider trying to extract the maximum performance from the bike, and telling the other two what he needs to go faster.
At Misano, I spoke to Matteo Flamigni at some length about his job, what it entails, and what it is like working with Valentino Rossi. Flamigni has been with Rossi since the Italian joined Yamaha back in 2004, and has formed a close, almost intimate relationship with the nine-time world champion, four of which Flamigni has had a hand in. We talked about his job, and how it has changed over the years; the precise nature of Rossi's feedback, and what Flamigni has taught Rossi through the years; and why the rider is always right.
Q: First of all, I'd like you to explain your job, explain what you do.
Matteo Flamigni: Basically I’m a data recording engineer, and I’m taking care of the data recording system on the bike. That means we have quite a lot of sensors on the bike that give you many, many different kinds of information. I record and I take all that information in my PC and I analyze that information and try to get the bike performing better and better during the weekend.
Q: Whenever I see you in the garage, it’s you and Valentino and Silvano. You seem to be the core?
MF: Yeah, what you said is true, because basically Vale tells us what’s wrong with the bike, what he would like to have from the bike. So me and Silvano, we try to improve the bike performance by chassis setup and by electronics setting, that’s specifically my job. Analyzing all the information coming from the sensors on the bike, I can understand where the bike is losing time, or improving time also, and making a comparison between the two riders. So we can adjust the anti-wheelie system, the traction control, the engine brake, corner by corner we can do this.
Q: Even with the new system you can do it more or less corner by corner?
MF: Yeah, exactly. So that’s it, basically.
Q: You saw you are responsible for the electronics settings. You are just adjusting settings? You’re not actually developing strategies?
MF: For that we have a department in Japan where they take care of the unified software and they study all the strategies of this software.
Q: So they give you a selection of strategies that you can choose from? You also work with the Japanese engineers?
MF: Yes. So basically we don’t really have a selection of strategies. We have, for example talking about the traction control, we have one traction control base setting, and we adjust by changing the parameters inside that strategy. We cannot really choose between many strategies. This is the traction control. This is how it works. You can change it corner-by-corner by increasing or decreasing the parameters, but just like that.
Q: I was just talking to Bradley Smith and he said the problems he sometimes has with his data engineers is that the feeling on the bike isn’t the same as the data. The data says one thing. You must know this too?
To read the rest of this article, you need to sign up to become a MotoMatters.com site supporter by taking out a subscription.
This is part of a regular series of unique insights into the world of motorcycle racing, exclusive for MotoMatters.com site supporters. The series includes interviews, background information, in-depth analysis, and opinion. Though most content on MotoMatters.com remains free to read, a select amount of uniquely interesting content will be made available solely to those who have supported the website financially by taking out a subscription.
The aim is to provide additional value for our growing band of site supporters, providing extra original and exclusive content. If you would like to read more of our exclusive content and help MotoMatters.com to grow and improve, you can join the growing band of site supporters, by taking out a subscription here.