Bridgestone's decision to bring the 2013-spec medium compound rear tire to the Austin round of MotoGP has met with near universal displeasure among the MotoGP riders. The Japanese tire company was forced to revert to the 2013-spec tire, without the added heat-resistant layer, after a production issue with the 2014 tires meant that they were unable to bring enough of the new spec tires to the Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin.
That decision was cause for much disappointment among MotoGP riders. 'I'm not happy to use the old tire,' Valentino Rossi told the press conference. 'I don't like it. I want to use the new one, and what Bridgestone did this weekend, bring the old tire after we worked a lot on the bike to make it use the new tire, this is something that sincerely I don't understand.'
Reigning world champion Marc Marquez concurred with Rossi. 'I don't agree with it,' Marquez said. 'I don't understand, honestly. Some riders complained. Not many, but some, and now here we will have the 2013 [tire],' Marquez said. It was unlikely to be too much of a problem for the Honda, though, he added. 'We raced the hard tire in Qatar, and here it looks like it will be warm, so we will try to manage.' The hard tire had worked well at Austin last year, giving Marquez hope he would be able to use the harder rubber.
Jorge Lorenzo rejected suggestions that the switch to the 2013 tire was related to the bitter complaints the Spaniard had aimed at the new, 2014 tire at Qatar. The decision had not been made by the company he worked for, Lorenzo said. 'I will race the tire we have,' Lorenzo said. 'I have to work with whatever Bridgestone bring.'
Bradley Smith was the most outspoken of the riders with his criticism of the move. Using the 2013 tires would help clarify the situation for Bridgestone, Smith said, giving the tire manufacturer and the teams a better look at the old tire. 'The new 2014 tires are much better, especially in race conditions,' Smith said. 'So I think this will shut up some riders from whingeing.'
Smith later explained his veiled barb at Jorge Lorenzo, the only rider to have been so vocal in his rejection of the tires. While Lorenzo had put off working with the new generation tires, Smith had started adapting to the 2014 tires as soon as possible.
The reasons the 2014 tires, which lack the edge grip of the previous year's rubber, don't work for Lorenzo's style were self-evident, Smith explained. 'He [Lorenzo] relies on corner speed, relies on angle, relies on the Yamaha to ride with his style. He's perfected his style, and I can understand his frustration, because in the final six races last year, he finally figured out how to make the bike go faster than the Honda. Then you start the season and you find out your style no longer works.'
Smith was sympathetic of Lorenzo's plight. 'I rode for all of last year knowing my style didn't work. It killed me that it didn't, but I had to modify it.' The Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider explained where his style diverged from Lorenzo's. 'I ride differently. I don't commit to the corner as early as he does, I don't carry the angle that he does for half of the time, and when I touch the throttle I pick up the bike a few degrees more than him, rather than keeping it on the angle. All those small details are where he's suffering,' Smith explained.
Testing had helped him adapt to the new medium rear, Smith said. 'I've figured out how to work [the new tire]. I did two extra days in Malaysia on those tires, where they decided, 'OK, we're just going to run the old tires, because that's what we're going to do.' I threw mine away, and said, OK, give me all the new ones and let me try to figure it out. It meant that I rode two seconds slower than they did, but I had two days more there. I also got the three days in Qatar that they didn't have, because when they rode in Phillip Island, they didn't test anything really on those tires, they had other tires. So I've had five days more experience on those tires than they have.'
That experience had ultimately benefited Yamaha's factory team, however. 'They were looking a lot into my settings, they looked a lot into tire temperatures and everything I was gaining because I have more information,' Smith said. 'I think that's what also helped a little bit towards Valentino's good performance in the race. But it's swings and roundabouts as well, I had their data to work with last year in many situations. I'm just happy that maybe for once, I've helped the factory team.'