With the MotoGP factory riders now finished their on-track work for 2014, the teams have time to reflect on their seasons. The Movistar Yamaha team has done so in a pair of press releases, containing interviews with their riders. Last week, we published the interview with Jorge Lorenzo, which means that this week, it is the turn of Valentino Rossi to look back at 2014. It was an outstanding year for Rossi, and he talks about his motivation, how the changes he made at the end of last year affected his performance, and what it takes to remain competitive at 35 years of age. Rossi makes his intention for 2015 perfectly clear: to be fighting for wins and for a title from the start of the next year:
Q: The 2014 season is over. Can you evaluate your performance?
Valentino Rossi: “I am very happy about my performance this season. The balance was very positive. For me this was the key season to decide my future. Last year I wasn’t very happy and I had to decide whether to continue or not. My target was to get to the front, fight with the top three riders and aim to get onto the podium every race. Last year this wasn’t always possible. I am happy that I was able to make it happen this year. I’ve made some big changes at the beginning of the season, but these have worked and I'm happy for that. Throughout this season I’ve always been strong in the race. I had good races and good battles.”
Q: What do you think about this year’s M1? At the beginning of the championship you suffered some lack of performances, but in the second part of the season the M1 won races with both you and Jorge.
VR: "Our M1 has improved a lot during the season, especially thanks to the good job done by both crews. Silvano, Ramon and all the engineers and technicians have worked very well. All together we were able to improve the bike to make it competitive and winning. It's a shame we weren’t able to improve the performance earlier on because most of the gap with Marc was created at the beginning of the season and then it became difficult to recover. If only we could start the season again now, things would go differently, but that's okay. What’s more important is that the bike has improved a lot and that it’s competitive now.”
Q: The results have been fantastic this season, the numbers speak for themselves. As a rider but also as a man, what does it mean to be back at such a high level?
VR: “It is a great satisfaction as both a rider and a man, because in recent years things had not gone well. The two years with Ducati were very difficult. Last year was a lot better but not enough for me to give everything I could, so I made some tough choices. They were bold, even risky, but now it’s a huge satisfaction to be here in Valencia after many podiums and a couple of victories. It makes me feel even more motivated and I’ve had a lot of fun, knowing that I’ve been competitive enough to win two races and have fought for the victory at almost every race with Lorenzo or Marquez, which was my target.”
Q: Which was the happiest moment throughout the season?
VR: “The best moment was the victory at Misano in front of all my fans. I managed to get back to first place in the Italian Grand Prix after five years and it was great. I loved that race. I really enjoyed myself and I felt really good emotions. However, I actually enjoyed the second victory more because at Misano I was a little too excited. In Phillip Island I was able to appreciate the win even more. I really enjoyed it!”
Q: After having returned to Yamaha for the last two seasons, what does it mean to you to be a Yamaha Rider?
VR: “I feel 100% a Yamaha rider in my heart. I had a long career and raced with several factory bikes, but the highlight of my career is undoubtedly with Yamaha. I love to work with the team and I really like the M1, so I'm happy to stay another two years with them. I take this opportunity to thank all the guys working on the Yamaha’s MotoGP program, who allowed me to achieve these excellent results. I want to thank everybody because it’s really a pleasure to work with all of them.”
Q: We know that you have prepared well physically and mentally after suffering the last three years. How were you able to make such a strong comeback?
VR: “I think the secret is to understand that you still want to be part of the game. To do so, you have to forget all the victories you've managed to get in the previous years and have a great humility. You also need to realise that, if you want to go on, you have to work hard. If you dwell too much on your past successes and say “well, I have won nine world titles and more than 100 races”, you’d rather stay home. The sport, your rivals, the tyres, your motorcycle, everything changes so instead you need to work more to be stronger. If you don’t, you’re finished.”
Q: The history of this sport has taught us that there are riders who suffered such experiences...
VR: “The question is ‘why am I still racing?’. I am still here because I like to prove myself. I still like to ride the bike on track and enjoy the races. I still have good reasons to be here after so many years.”
Q: Last year you said that you had to take a look at yourself; how much have you relaxed?
VR: “Well, examining yourself doesn’t mean you don’t believe in yourself in my opinion. I was not 100% sure, but I was pretty convinced I could do much better. I’ve competed with these riders during all these years and I was defeated sometimes, but other times I’ve won from them too. I was still racing, but when you turn 35 years old, your opponents are ten years younger than you. If you have to fight against them in three difficult seasons, it’s necessary to go over the situation in your head and realise that it might be you who’s the real problem.”
Q: In this second half of the season you have sent a clear message to your main rivals. How can you put more pressure on them and how can Yamaha help you to try to reach the tenth world title?
VR: “I still believe in it, as I always said. After this year even more because we are there at the front. We are really close to our rivals, but it will be difficult. Lorenzo will be stronger next year and Marquez won the world title by winning 13 races against my two. This means he won 11 more than me. The difference is huge. To fill this gap we have to work even better with the team, with Silvano, and also work hard with Yamaha to give us a hand. I think this year, especially at the beginning, Honda was much more competitive than our bike and the first half of the season was too easy for Marc. If we want to make life difficult for him, it’s necessary to be closer to him.”
Q: Regarding Marquez victories, when you won with a Honda bike everyone said it was the bike…
VR: “I felt sorry about this because when you win so many races the bike and you become one, together, and a growing symbiosis between rider and bike. The bike was a Honda, at that point the fastest of all, and I had a lot of success 10 years ago, but the pilot does his part and makes the difference. When I was doing this 10 years ago everyone was saying “ah, he wins because of the Honda”, but I have to thank them because of them I switched to Yamaha and it was great to prove I could win with another bike.”
Q: Many years have passed and you still always give the maximum input. As you look back to the past what do you see?
VR: “Ah, well ... a great joy for the rider and I'm very happy because I won a lot. I've won races and lived in a world that just gave me joy, so I remember it very positively.”
Q: And when you look ahead, not in the next few years but even further, along with the most attractive projects with the Academy, what do you see?
VR: “All projects look beautiful, I'm happy but I'm sorry that at some point I will have to stop racing. The team and the Academy will help but it will not be the same”.
Q: In last the press conference, all praised you, you're a legend, an extraordinary rider… How do you experience this?
VR: “With pride! Of course I'd like to be 25 years old rather than 35 but I feel great pride. I have so much respect for my opponents; many of them watched the races as little children and were supporting me!”
Q: What do you think about the last race of the season in Valencia ?
VR: “Valencia is always difficult for me. I've struggled a lot in the past. For me it’s a great achievement to take the pole position and to finish in second place, especially because this race was very difficult and the conditions were very dangerous. I tried to stay concentrated and not to make a mistake. It’s a bit of a shame that I started to suffer a little bit on the right side of the tyre, because I wasn’t so far from Marc, but it still has been a good season. We got second in the championship, a lot of podiums and two victories. Now, we have to work to be even better next year. I am very close to 300 points, but Marquez won a lot more races than me, so me and my team need to improve the Yamaha to try and stay closer during the whole season. The test is important because we have a lot of new stuff to test for next year, so it will be interesting.”
Q: After Valencia Test wraps up, there is a bit of time to relax. What will you do with your time?
VR: “After the tests we can relax at home. The Rally of Monza on the 30th of November is next. After that, December and January are the months that we can really go on holiday and I’d like to go snowboarding with my friends. Nothing special…"