A downbeat Valentino Rossi conceded that at present he simply cannot get to grips with the 2012 Ducati after struggling to 10th place in the Qatar Grand Prix. The seven-time MotoGP champion was a long way off the pace throughout the Losail weekend, and could not match team-mate Nicky Hayden’s pace. While Rossi said an earlier clash with Hector Barbera was a factor in his Qatar result, he admitted that the biggest problem was that the bike did not suit him at all.
“I had big problems at the beginning of the race: when we are on new tyres I struggle under braking,” he told Italian broadcaster Mediaset. “On top of that, I lost four or five seconds after coming together with Barbera. I then managed to improve a bit and on the last lap I even managed to set my quickest lap on worn tyres. But it’s useless, we struggle to be competitive.
“I can’t ride this bike, I can’t make the difference, I can’t even keep up with Hayden’s pace, who I used to go quick against in comparison. In theory, with new tyres I should go quicker. Nicky managed to do a good race with the other works Ducati, but he still ended up only sixth.”
Rossi fears that 2012 could end up being even harder than last year, when he took just one podium finish.
“In Jerez testing it went better, sixth with the quicker tyres,” he said. “But that’s our pace, it’s not an attractive objective to be fighting for sixth place. We are used to better objectives.
“Probably we are going worse than last year because we managed to be seventh back then… What can I say? I want to be frank. I can’t ride this bike well, even in comparison with my fellow Ducati riders.
“This Ducati has problems: I gave indications over where to intervene, but we didn’t solve our problems. Unfortunately I’m no engineer and can’t do anything about it. At least the positive aspect is that I don’t crash with this chassis. That’s something at least.”
The Italian added that he was finding it hard to be optimistic as Ducati had failed to progress from a disappointing start in 2011.
“We ran out of hope last year. More than hope we need a better bike,” Rossi said. “But I wouldn’t want to expose myself like I did last year, by thinking and hoping that the second chassis development would be an improvement.
“I tried to be a professional. When Barbera pushed me out I even considered returning to the pits, but then I stayed out in order to give our technicians some data to study so as to improve things.”