Yamaha making progress but “a lot of room to improve”


Valentino Rossi Sachsenring 2018
Credit: Movistar Yamaha

The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP team are currently enduring a long winless streak, with 18 races having now passed since Valentino Rossi triumphed at Assen last year. Whilst Rossi has finished in the top five every race this year bar Argentina, he has still been clear about what is needed to improve the bike. Maverick Viñales seemed to struggle more than his team-mate up until Assen, where he scored his first podium of the season. The Sachsenring saw Viñales score his second consecutive podium and Rossi achieve his best result of the year so far, with Rossi second and Viñales third.

In the championship, consistent results mean that Rossi and Viñales are currently second and third respectively, but Marc Marquez has a healthy 46-point lead going into the summer break. Despite their current position in the championship, the Yamaha riders still feel improvements need to be made. The Ducatis are very strong this year and have been competitive at tracks that usually don’t suit their bike, making them more of a threat. Everything is very close in MotoGP and championship standings can change with just one DNF.

Whilst recent results are clearly progress for the team and evidence that they are moving in the right direction, the riders still feel more work needs to be done to get back to the top step of the podium.

“For me we need a small help from Japan to improve the electronics system in acceleration. The season is so long, I push with all my force and I hope for help from Japan” said Rossi, speaking in the post-race press conference.

“Finally we found a really good balance, the bike is really competitive on the chassis side but we need to improve the electronics side. Today in the race I lost the opportunity on the main straight because I could not overtake” added Viñales, also speaking in the post-race press conference.

“I am concentrating a lot on the riding style trying to supply what we don’t have with the electronics and I think we did well but still there is a lot of room to improve.”

With requests from both riders for help with electronics from Japan and otherwise good comments about the chassis and balance of the bike, the acceleration could be the last piece of the puzzle to get them back to the top step of the podium. These comments have been coming for some time though, with both riders being outspoken about the electronics issues in the hope that it would spur Yamaha on.

With the summer break now here, it’s possible that Yamaha will get some updates for the next race in Brno to improve acceleration. The updates are what the riders want and what they feel they need to win, especially when their biggest weakness is one of the Ducati’s biggest strengths.

Meanwhile, there are also problems at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team. Johann Zarco on the satellite bike seems to be experiencing a dip in performance contrary to the progress of the factory team. Earlier in the year, it wasn’t unusual to see him ahead of the factory riders, with Zarco finishing on the podium in Argentina and Jerez with two second places. Ever since his DNF at his home Grand Prix, which he started from pole, he has been unable to fight at the front. He failed to even make it out of Q1 at the Sachsenring and qualified fourteenth, finishing ninth.

“I’m happy with the finish of the race … difficult weekend but even when it’s difficult I finish 8th, 9th and get points for the championship” said Zarco, speaking to MotoGP after the race.

Whilst it is unclear exactly what is causing these difficulties for Zarco, he will surely be seeking a resolution so he can target higher points finishes following the summer break. If updates do come for the factory team then it’s possible that Zarco may also benefit from them, despite riding the 2017 spec M1.