One of the most heavily-attended press conferences at Sepang was the Yamaha affair, at which Yamaha's MotoGP group leader Masahiko Nakajima, Racing MD Lin Jarvis, team bosses Davide Brivio and Wilco Zeelenberg and the two stars of the show, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo faced questions from the assembled press. The subjects covered a lot of ground, from Wilco Zeelenberg's first day on the job, to Yamaha Indonesia's stepping up with sponsorship, to whether post-race burnouts are things of the past. But more pressing subjects were also covered, such as the end to data sharing between Valentino Rossi's and Jorge Lorenzo's sides of the garage, whether Yamaha thinks they can retain both their riders, and the two riders' impressions of the new YZR M1.
All these and more are covered in the transcript of the press conference, which follows below, thanks to our friends over at Superbikeplanet.com:
Q. To MN: Are you satisfied with the development of the M1?
Masahiko Nakajima: Difficult to say! It's too early to say how the development is but so far, on the first day of the winter test, we have quite good results and we are quite satisfied.
Q. To LJ: This morning you announced new sponsors for the FYT. There is a still a critical situation in the global economy; how is Yamaha's situation and does this situation affect the Tech 3 Racing team?
Lin Jarvis: Yamaha's situation globally at the moment is difficult because, like every global company, they are facing difficulties due to the economic situation. We are struggling, I would say, in the business in Europe and America, but the business in Asia is quite positive for us at the moment so it's not by accident that one of our new sponsors is actually Yamaha Motor Indonesia, and we are carrying their marketing slogan on our bikes this year. The slogan 'Semakin de Depan means 'Always One Step Ahead' so this is showing that this region, the Asian region, is one of the growth areas for motorcycles. So we are positive for our future and we will be putting a lot of effort into the Asian zone, and it is not by accident that we're here today launching the team in Asia. We also have an extension of our Fiat group sponsorship because we're joined by Iveco, so another member of the Fiat group is joining us this year. I think we will be in a good condition to fight for the championship and we will do our best again.
Q. To DB: How is the level of confidence in the team?
Davide Brivio: Today was the first test and of course it's early to say, but we've made a good start. Valentino was in good shape, he did many laps and he was also quite fast since the start and with a good pace. We started to test the 2010 bike and we found some positive things, so it was a good day, so for the moment we're happy. As I say we've just started our job, but we've started well.
Q. To WZ: Can you tell us about your first day in the Fiat Yamaha Team and in your side especially?
Wilco Zeelenberg: Everything went quite smoothly, Jorge is quite happy with the bike except that he trained a lot over the winter with motocross and trials bikes so he had to adapt a little bit to the smaller race bike and that took a bit of time, but at the end of the day he was there. We have some time to improve tomorrow but he felt better and better.
Q. To MN: Do you think that Yamaha has reached the goal that Valentino asked for at the end of last year, to improve the power of the engine within the new engine rules?
Masahiko Nakajima: At this stage it's difficult to say but this year's key subject is durability because we have to maintain almost twice the durability from last year. Last year our engine mileage limitation was 1200 km and so this year we have to maintain more than 2000 km, so our key issue is durability. But we have also developed performance so at this stage I can say that we have improved to 'medium range' from last year. We will still continue to develop in order to satisfy our rider.
Q. To LJ: Do you think that there will be the possibility to maintain both riders in your team, or will Yamaha have to choose the rider for the future.
Lin Jarvis: If you ask me at the end of the year it will probably be easier to answer! Yamaha has the two strongest riders in the world in our team and it would be perfect if we were able to continue like this in the future. I think that the rider negotiations will go on mostly in the first half of the year and the summer time, maybe in the start of the second half things will become clearer. It's not only Yamaha riders' contracts that expire, also Stoner's and Pedrosa's, so this will give a clearer idea of the position.
Q. To LJ: In your opinion is it possible that they can stay together?
Lin Jarvis: In my opinion it is possible. So...we will see!
Q. To LJ: Because of the economic situation, do you think that, in mid-season, Yamaha will have the economic power to retain both riders?
Lin Jarvis: It depends on the cost! Economics is of course a factor for everybody at the moment; all constructors and all teams are facing increasing pressure on their budgets, it's very difficult to project at the moment but let's see how the situation and the business evolves.
Q. I think that the information that's going to be shared between Valentino and Jorge is going to be tightened up a little bit this year...is that true?
Masahiko Nakajima: Yes...so each team will have their own data, and they won't see the other team's data. Only the Yamaha engineers will be able to look at all the data and take it back to both riders.
Q. To WZ: Coming from the Supersport championship, how was your approach to MotoGP today? Did you find anything that surprised you?
Wilco Zeelenberg: There was a lot of noise! We arrived here on Monday and we had to build up the bikes and, when you're in production racing you use production parts and when you come to MotoGP you use factory parts and I have to say that makes a huge difference. I've seen the bike before but it's a racing machine and it's a completely different story to in production racing like superbike or supersport.
Q. To LJ: What is your real expectation about this season and about the four riders?
Lin Jarvis: I think we are very fortunate at the moment that we have the four riders and you could say that, on paper, we have three of the five top riders in the world from last season and then Ben Spies is probably the hottest rookie coming into the package. So it's an enviable situation to have four such talented riders in Yamaha. I think both teams are going to have internal competition. The competition between Valentino and Jorge is well documented, and it's very clear that they're one and two. But also having two Texans in a team is going to be quite hot; one of them is riding at the best of his career in MotoGP, Colin is not the youngest rider out there but he has a lot of fire within and I'm sure he'll be pushing Ben to see who's top dog, then you have Ben coming into MotoGP with nothing to lose and his career ahead of him. It's going to be interesting and I think that with our riders it's not only their riding performance but also their characters; we have four real characters and that's our contribution to the MotoGP world. I think it's going to be exciting.
Q. To DB: Are you going to change anything in your internal working procedures in respect to last year? Do you expect any change within the team?
Davide Brivio: No, we don't expect any changes. The team is very stable, for many years and their working procedure is well organised. Of course there are changes due to working regulations, we only have six engines to manage and this is one of the things that will affect the weekend job. We experienced in 2009 for the first time the tyre limitation, but for the rest there is an ongoing evolution in the way we work. For example now compared to four or five years ago we spend much more time thinking about electronics and discussing in technical meetings about electronics. So there are evolutions in the way we work but the organisation is quite stable and this is one of our strong points. Starting from the rider, the engineers, the mechanics, everybody. We will keep going and hope for the same result.
Q. (To the two team managers) What was your impression from your riders today about their spirit and will to be back on the bike?
Davide Brivio: As far as Valentino is concerned it was a good day, as I said before and we found him fast from the beginning. Already on the second run he started to be very fast and once again, even despite many years together he surprises us with his motivation. He seems in very good shape so in spite of all the years he seems motivated and in good shape as always. (WZ) I agree with Davide. It seems both riders have a bit of a problem to start in the morning! But this morning was quite okay, Valentino started off a bit better because he was directly fast, while Jorge took a bit of time to get into his rhythm, but as I explained before he did a lot of MX and trial riding in the winter and it took a bit of time but they were both really eager to start this morning on their new bikes.
Q. So testing in F1 could be a good preparation for MotoGP riders, if Valentino is already so fast at the start of testing?!
Davide Brivio: Yes! Maybe testing in F1 means he arrives here with the mind already set on track...it's a completely different thing but you still need to talk about setting, tyres and speed so maybe it's true that he arrived here prepared, from a sporting point of view. But it's a completely different job.
Q. To LJ: Please explain why Furusawa-san isn't here, at the first test of the year?
Lin Jarvis: You will see Furusawa-san many, many times this year, he remains the top of engineering within Yamaha, very involved in this, so the fact that he is not here doesn't really mean anything except that he has a very big and important job to do because he's responsible not just for racing, but for all other engineering within the business.
Q. Does the new engine rule mean we won't see any more burnouts after the victory?
Lin Jarvis: I don't expect any...all of our riders are very focused on their results throughout the season, with only six engines you can't afford to make mistakes like that.
Q. To JL: After today, do you think you need more time, or is there something else? What is the situation?
Jorge Lorenzo: I think I need more kilometres because it's been many months without being on the bike, so now we have to improve a little bit and to be patient.
Q. To JL: This year Yamaha accepted your request to be more involved in the development of the bike?
Jorge Lorenzo: Yes this is one new thing that I will have this year. Yamaha will allow me to start saying indications to the engineers and this is a great motivation for me, it is good for Yamaha for the future and good for me.
Q. To JL: And this bike is more useful for you, for your style and your feeling?
Jorge Lorenzo: One of my best gifts is that I am able to easily adapt my riding style to the bike, so for me it's not a problem; the Yamaha is a winning bike and Valentino is a the first rider to develop the bike, I think he is doing a good job and I will try to be as fast as I can be with this bike.
Q. To VR: Tell us something about the new bike and this test.
Valentino Rossi: Yes...I think that now these tests are more important than in the past because now we have just six days to set the bike like we want and get to the maximum. So we will try to work in the best way. I'm very happy about the start, firstly because I did a lot of good lap times and secondly because the first touch with the new bike, exactly the bike we will use in the championship, give me a good feeling. Yamaha make a hard job, especially in two ways. One way is the chassis, we try to improve the stability of the bike compared to the 2009 edition and already in Valencia I feel some more good improvement and also here in Sepang we have confirmed that the new frame is good. But, more than this, because the frame is usually a good point within Yamaha, I was more than a little bit worried about the new engine. Because in Japan they try to make an engine with a good power but a lot more kilometres and the feeling with the engine is a bit different but it is good; we're already fast, I do quite a lot of laps today and the power remain the same. It looks like in Japan they did a lot of good work. Now we need to work more, on the electronic system to be ready for the first race, but the first part is good.
Q. To both: Last year we had a lot of complaints from both of you about data sharing. Now Mr Nakajima has confirmed to us that this year there won't be any. I'd like to know who asked for this from Yamaha first?
Valentino Rossi: Speaking with Yamaha I think Jorge, especially last year and already in 2008, demonstrate great speed and a good attitude to fix and set the bike. Now he is already two years in the team so everyone agrees that it's possible for everyone to make their own way. Also Jorge wants to work more on the development, so I think it's right that everyone does his job alone. But at the end it doesn't change a lot because all the comments between me and Jorge are quite similar, so it's not a big change.
Jorge Lorenzo: I don't have anything to comment about this.
Q. To VR: Now Yamaha has the top three riders and a special rookie. Do you think it will be more difficult to ride in such conditions next season?
Valentino Rossi: I think that after I arrived in Yamaha in 2004 Yamaha understands very well that the rider is so important to make good result. Now the competition in Yamaha is very strong. Jorge and I but also Ben Spies who is very fast and is the world champion of Superbike, and also Colin in great shape. So now it's different to in the past. A lot of times in the past the journalists push a lot on me when another Yamaha arrive in front, but now it's more normal because three of the top five are on Yamaha, I think it's good especially for Yamaha.
Q. To Both: Everyone talks about the 'top four' but there's a few new riders coming in this year. Can you see any of them stepping up to challenge for wins?
Valentino Rossi: Yes. I think that the first four have a bit more speed at the moment, but it's just the beginning. So, we have a lot of new riders with a lot of expectation. Especially Spies, but also Simoncelli. Then there are some others, like Dovizioso, who had some problems in 2009 but want to demonstrate how fast they are, so every weekend there will be others trying to fight with the top four.
Jorge Lorenzo: Yes I think this year will be more level, even more than last year, because with the new rookies like Barbera, Spies, Simoncelli and Aoyama, most are world champions and for sure these riders will make some good races.
Q. To VR: Marco Simoncelli been a good friend of yours, will you be giving him any tips about how to adapt to a MotoGP bike?
Valentino Rossi: No no! when Marco signed for MotoGP, the tips are finished! I think it's normal! I have a good relationship with him, we stay quite a lot together at home, we train in the same gym and together with Motocross bike. I have a good relationship with him and I've seen him growing up to be a world champion, but now he's a rival, like the others.
Q. To both: A few minutes ago Lin said in his opinion for the future it would be possible to have both of you in the same team.
Valentino Rossi: I agree, it's possible. In 2009 it was a great fight especially with Jorge, but the relationship outside the track remained good, so what happens in the future...now it's very early to say, but it's not impossible for us both to remain in Yamaha for 2011.
Jorge Lorenzo: Impossible is nothing, no?
Q. To VR: I've read that you're building a new house...are you planning a family?
Valentino Rossi: No, no (laughing). The question was about the future and what I know now about the future is that I build a new house, not what will happen in the track! Before I lived with my mother so...
Q. To VR: Can you make any comment about the test of Ferrari? After you finished your lap time seemed so fast but Massa was much faster. Can you explain what happened?
Valentino Rossi: Yes, the test in Barcelona was very good, first because I enjoy a lot. It's difficult to compare with Massa because he is very fast, but to arrive at this time in Barcelona with that car, that amount of fuel, those tyres...it's a good lap time. I enjoyed a lot and thank Ferrari for the chance, but I missed the bike and I'm so happy to be back at my real job, starting for 2010. It looks like it will be a tough season. Jorge looks very strong but also Stoner and Pedrosa, it will be a hard, hard fight. Harder than in the past years.
Q. To VR: If you have to leave Yamaha at the end of the year, will we be more likely to see you with the red Ducati or the red Ferrari?
Valentino Rossi: I have decided to not speak anymore about 2011 because everything I say is good in one way and bad in another. I simply don't know what will happen.
Q. To VR: You won six races last year, this year do you think you might not be able to win that many races but still be champion? What will be most important this year?
Valentino Rossi: First of all I think, I hope, for MotoGP that in 2010 it's possible to see more races like Barcelona last year or Laguna in 2009, because in the past it was the most positive thing about MotoGP. But in the last few years, unfortunately, I don't think we have seen enough battles. So everybody hopes that it will come back like four or five years ago, with closer races and more fighting on the last lap. It's impossible to understand about the number of victories because we have minimum four riders able to win more than one race. So, it will be important to arrive always at the end, get points and win when possible.
Q. To VR: You will be 31 soon...
Valentino Rossi: Very soon! But I think if my body stays the same and the motivation stays the same then it will be possible to make two or three more years like this in MotoGP. But anyway it depends on my result because, I am Valentino Rossi, I won a lot of races, a lot of championships and when I understand that I can't do this anymore, I know it's time to stay at home, work in the garden...!
Q. To VR: Ten is an important number, for the championships...
Valentino Rossi: Yes, ten is a good number but we have nine so...it's another championship and every one has it's own story. It's important to work now and be ready in Qatar. Agostini's record...more than a target, it's a dream!
Q. To Both: These races for you are more sport or more art and show?
Valentino Rossi: Sport
Jorge Lorenzo: Motorcycles! A different kind of sport.
Q. To VR: And are burnouts a thing of the past now?
Valentino Rossi: No...difficult now! Valencia!
Masahiko Nakajima (MN) - MotoGP Group Leader and Fiat Yamaha Team Director
Lin Jarvis (LJ) - Managing Director, Yamaha Motor Racing
Davide Brivio (DB) - Team Manager, Valentino Rossi
Wilco Zeelenberg (WZ) - Team Manager, Jorge Lorenzo
Valentino Rossi (VR)
Jorge Lorenzo (JL)