Changeable conditions and the dreaded lack of grip saw Valentino Rossi kick off his European campaign 15th after Friday’s MotoGP free practice outings in Portimao.
Using the start of FP1 to complete a slightly longer initial run while the track continued to dry from overnight rain, Rossi set a series of quick laps in the closing minutes, his final effort placing him 11th with a 1’43.013 time before returning to focus on his race pace in FP2.
Opting to save some tyres for tomorrow’s session, thanks in part to the tricky track conditions, the Italian concluded the day with 1’41.125 as his fastest lap after both mistakes and traffic impeded his late-afternoon pace - the time placing him 15th in both the session and combined standings.
“This morning was a bit difficult because it was a very difficult condition - half wet, half dry - but at the end, my lap time was not too bad” explained Rossi this evening. “In the afternoon, the practice was more normal, and with the medium tyres in the race pace, I did some laps that are not so bad. Unfortunately I did a bit too much up and down, made some mistakes, I had some traffic, so I was not constant enough, but some lap time were quite good. After, on the time attack, I was not very strong, we tried to use the soft front but I was a bit in trouble and I was not able to push at 100% so my position is not fantastic.
“This track is great, it’s beautiful but it’s also very tricky, very difficult. Today the grip was not fantastic as the track was a bit dirty but it looks like now every practice the grip will come better. I’m quite happy about the setting of the bike but we need to improve, especially in braking because in some areas, I am a bit in trouble.
“I said that Europe has a lot of tracks that I know very well but we start here from Portimao, and it’s never easy, but it’s never easy for everybody. Today my pace was not fantastic but I’m not so far. It’s always difficult with the tyres, because at this moment the race choice is not very clear but we have to work to try to improve these things.
“We start from the base of last year, from last year’s race setting so is a bit different compared to Qatar. During the winter test we try the carbon swingarm but at the end, in Qatar, we go back to the aluminium. Sincerely, is not very different, the carbon is just a bit more stiff but I think that now, for the moment, we continue with aluminium.
“We need to be competitive everywhere, this was the target in Qatar, and also in Portimao. Yesterday I said that I’m very happy to be back in Europe, for sure, because everything is more easy, but I don’t want to say ‘okay, wait for Jerez, because I know Jerez’, it’s not like this unfortunately. I need to ride well, to keep confident with my bike. Last year, the race in Portimao was not easy for me but I did some good lap-times, so it’s not easy but we need [to do] more than think ‘at the real Europe tracks’, we need to think tomorrow morning, because tomorrow morning will be very, very important to stay in the top-10, and after we will see.”