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MotoGP Interview - Massimo Meregalli (Yamaha): EXCLUSIVE

“Maverick has been super fast, consistent, no mistakes, very focussed. I couldn't have expected such behaviour if I think he is only 22” – Massimo Meregalli
Before the final night of testing began in Qatar, all was well with Massimo Meregalli, team boss for Movistar Yamaha. On day two he not only witnessed Valentino Rossi make huge strides with set-up, but both his riders set the two fastest times of the evening.

Rossi's brief resurrection proved to be something of a false dawn at the end, the Italian struggling once more in the final session. “We are quite worried,” he said of his situation soon after. Part of Rossi's concern may have been the speed shown over a race simulation by team-mate Maverick Viñales, who looked the strongest rider on track by some distance.

As the final testing session of preseason was due to get underway, Meregalli spoke to on a variety of issues, including Rossi's fitness, Viñales' speed, Yamaha's chassis dilemma and Marc Marquez's mind games at Phillip Island.
Valentino appeared to gain a lot on the second night of testing. Where did this come from?

Massimo Meregalli:
Basically after Phillip Island, in Japan they tried to check deeply and understand his comments, the data. They came up with a solution. Basically the weight distribution – they moved a bit his position and it worked. I really don't want to say that it was lucky he crashed. But when he crashed he destroyed the other bike. He jumped on this [his second bike] and immediately he slowly, slowly got the feeling. Even with almost 20 laps on the tyres, he started improving his lap time. Then when he stopped he said, 'I have a good feeling!' It was not as good as it must be but now we are close. We can start finally to work on the small details, the fine tuning, that until last night has been impossible.
At the end of the Phillip Island test Valentino looked exhausted. Is there a sense that a bit of travel fatigue had set in, considering his various media duties across South East Asia?

Massimo Meregalli:
No. I make a joke with this. I had the same question [before] and my answer was 'Maybe it's a bit [to do with] the age.' It was just a joke. Then it became news. No, for me, what is happening in Australia was they [Valentino's team] tried so many things. Also they lost they way. He was tired but probably a bit unsatisfied. We decide together to not do the race simulation and even the time attack, because anyway he was in that condition tired, exhausted maybe as there was no big change.

Honestly here, on the first day it started better than we finished in Phillip Island. Yesterday finished even better. Now for sure he has to prove. Yesterday he only did three laps. Today he has to improve the pace. So far the pace is not very good. Honestly, I am optimistic because he did a 1m 54.7s, a 54.9s. Those are really good lap times.

Unfortunately we have only one day now to work on the fine tuning. He never did any race simulation because he was not in the condition to do that. Today here is fundamental. Here the fuel consumption is a critical point. The tyre life, we improved this, especially with this new bike. Anyway, they saw that on the paper. We saw it with Maverick. But still, he didn't touch it with his hand.
Have you made a final decision with regards to the chassis choice for 2017?

Massimo Meregalli:
I'm happy last night when they asked, 'OK, left or right?' [Which chassis do we choose?] Now it's good because they both choose the same thing. It will be easier for the Japanese engineers to develop.
So it's the newest of the two chassis you will continue with?

Massimo Meregalli:
Yes. Basically, we always said the new [was the right direction]. Then they [Yamaha engineers] brought an update. It was then a decision. [We asked] 'Which one? This one or that one?' But so far we are very satisfied. Maverick has been super fast, consistent, no mistakes, very focussed. I couldn't have expected such behaviour if I think he is only 22. He is very calm. He is very sure with his comments. He's a super great discovery.
What seemed to impress several riders on the second night was track conditions had changed considerably. Yet Maverick was still as quick as he was on the first night. It seems he's fast at all tracks, in all conditions.

Massimo Meregalli:
Yeah. Our bike, the more grip it has, the better it is. Yesterday the rubber on the tarmac was more than before. This helped us. Probably we suffered a bit less in this circumstance. As you said, he has been the only one to keep that pace. As soon as they started crashing all the other riders' pace dropped. But he could keep it.
We haven't seen much of Yamaha's updated fairing in recent weeks. What is the situation with that?

Massimo Meregalli:
We haven't used it yet. But I think today we will. It's been in the schedule since the first day but the schedule has always been interrupted because of something else. I think today before the race simulation [we'll try it].
Do you expect to use the normal fairing in the majority of races this year?

Massimo Meregalli:
It depends, because in Sepang as soon as we started using the new fairing, they had a really good feeling. Then in Phillip Island the circumstances were different and there we started comparing other things. So we decide to use only one fairing to have a comparison. Here we started as we finished in Phillip Island but we will for sure we will try it today. That is what we are going to homologate in two weeks time.
On the final day of testing at Phillip Island we saw Marc spend some laps behind Maverick on track. It seemed he was playing a few mind-games. Is this kind of behaviour something we can expect more of from Maverick's rivals through the year?

Massimo Meregalli:
Honestly I prefer that we don't see these things anymore. This is how he [Marquez] is used to being and we will try to deal with it.

Tagged as: Valentino Rossi , West , Ajo , Marquez , Viñales

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March 23, 2017 6:09 AM
Last Edited 61 days ago

Very very interesting, primarily because of what he says about Valentino : Valentino effectively hasn't actually done a real SET of time attacks yet because of all the testing he was asked to be involved in. So that's a good omen given the three 54's he did in the last test. Maverick is fast we know that - we knew that from the Suzuki and, to a large extent, his brief was different during the 3 tests : given he was coming from a different bike, as with Jorge and Iannone his brief was to become completely comfortable with his new bike, so he was given more freedom to do lots of time attacks. All reasonable. The real comparisons start tomorrow and, of course, in the race on Sunday. Not sure why Yamaha needs to get involved in the Marc following Maverick stuff : it happens - Maverick just has to learn to deal with it !

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