Valentino Rossi spoke on Sunday of the frustration he has suffered over the past two years with Ducati. After two years with the iconic Italian factory, the gap to the front runners remains the same, and the problems Rossi noted at the first test in Valencia 2010 are still there. Now, he told the press, his focus is on riding the Yamaha M1 again, to assess just what the damage of his two years at Ducati has been. Whether any of the riders heading to Ducati for 2013 would be able to master the Ducati was still open, Rossi said.
The Italian was philosophical after the race at Phillip Island, having finished a mediocre seventh, some 37 seconds behind the winner at a track where Rossi once won five years in a row. He brushed off the question of whether the result was a bad one or not with a quip. "I expected more! Yesterday, I was 2 seconds behind, 2 seconds for 27 laps, I expect 54 seconds! So was a good race," Rossi joked.
Rossi's previous record at Phillip Island was outstanding, but even after two years on the bike, Rossi said, he still failed to understand how come Casey Stoner was so successful on the Ducati where everyone else failed. "Casey was the only one rider who could be fast with the Ducati," Rossi told reporters. "All the other guys that tried have destroyed, not his career but his mind... So congratulations to Casey. But two years ago, I still don't understand why there is this difference between Stoner and the other Ducati riders, and after two years that I ride the Ducati I still don't understand." Rossi did not believe his time on the Ducati had caused him the same problems, however. When asked if the experience had, in his own words, destroyed his mind, Rossi replied "I don't think so. Especially because I have another chance."
His time with Ducati, which had been heralded as a match made in heaven between two Italian icons, the legendary Ducati brand and the nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi, had been much tougher than he had hoped for. "It was very tough, very difficult two seasons," Rossi said. The most difficult part had been the lack of progress made, despite the many changes made to the Ducati. Rossi characterized the period as "especially very frustrating." Little had changed in the last two years, Rossi said. "The bigger frustration, apart from the bad results and the bad feeling, is that more or less we have the same problem with this bike after two years that we had in Valencia in 2010. And sometimes you have the feeling that you waste your time. This is the bigger frustration."
Despite his frustration, saying goodbye to the people at Ducati would be hard, Rossi added. "I think it will be very emotional at Valencia, because I find a good atmosphere and good people to work with and to make the race together. And I always make a group with my team, not for choice, but because it's like this, maybe it's my character, and for sure will be very hard to say ciao to the guys. But at the same time, you know, we are not able to achieve any good result, so is a good decision for me, and I cannot wait to ride the M1." Despite his results on the Ducati, Rossi felt his career had not lost its shine. This was the first wrong career choice he had made, Rossi told reporters. "In all my career, I never miss a choice. Now I miss one choice. "
Rossi admitted that he was nervous about going back to Yamaha, despite being sure of his decision. "I think I can give to Yamaha a very important support to improve the bike. I am sure of this 100%. Because between me and Yamaha was the perfect match, in the way to work and to improve the bike. I'm not sure if I'm able to stay at the same level as Lorenzo and Pedrosa, and fight for win races and for win championships, you know? Sincerely, I don't know, so I have to try the bike before. But we have two years, and if we want to try, the test in Valencia will be very important to understand, but after we have to work, my team have to give the maximum, Jeremy [Burgess] have to give the maximum, everybody have to give 100% for improve, fix the problems, improve our level, to fight, especially with Lorenzo on the same bike, that now is the world champion."
The advantage Rossi had was that he was returning to Yamaha as the number two rider, a position which gives him much more freedom. "You know, we are number two. And usually the number one is in the more difficult position, because the number one - in this case Lorenzo and Pedrosa - was like me with Lorenzo in 2008 and 2009. If you arrive in front, OK, is normal. But if you arrive behind suddenly you have some problems."
The question of which of the new bunch of riders would do best on the Desmosedici intrigued Rossi as much as any outside observer. Andrea Dovizioso had a proven track record, while Andrea Iannone had no expectations created by having spent time on a Japanese bike. Ben Spies could also be an interesting prospect on the bike, in Rossi's assessment."I think is interesting also waiting for Spies, but with the injury, I think we have to wait until next year. First, is interesting to understand Dovi and Iannone compared to Hayden. And also to understand between Dovi and Iannone, because Dovi have more experience on the MotoGP, on the other hand, Iannone have no experience of MotoGP, but never ride a Honda and Yamaha. Maybe can be a small advantage, I don't know. I'm not sure of this. But can be different. Because for sure the Japanese bikes are different to ride, and Iannone coming from Moto2, never ride the Japanese bikes, so his mind is more open, empty," Rossi said.