Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio, the man charged with overseeing Valentino Rossi's recent MotoGP title successes and his latest defence in 2010, admits that his fellow Italian is still capable of surprising the team, but insists that there is very little he would change.
While Rossi wrapped up the 2009 crown before the end of the season, the campaign was far from perfect - the Italian fell at Indianapolis while battling team-mate Jorge Lorenzo for victory in a race he didn't 'need' to win, and also fell as both Donington Park and Le Mans - but Brivio admits that the biggest surprise of all comes from his charge's ongoing passion for the sport.
"Valentino always surprised us in the last year, in the good and in the bad," he confirmed, "He has surprised us with his victories and some sensational gestures that are in everybody's memory. Sometimes he surprises us with mistakes that he could avoid, but the very big surprise is his determination, after nine world titles, to remain the number one in this sport. The next win is like the very first for him. This is the biggest surprise.
"Because of that, maybe it is better if we do not touch anything and leave him as he is. He is a great champion and has won so many titles. It is great to work with him. He is very fun and he has a big respect for the people he works with. He has a great talent, but he also spends a lot of time in preparation and training before the races and, during the weekend, in the preparation of the bike and the set-up. He has a great motivation in remaining at the top and that's his power point.
"Maybe I would like to increase the time we can spend together, during the weekend, because he is always so busy. But, at the end of the day, I would leave him as he is now."
While Rossi erred in 2009, so did the team, and Brivio reveals that there are plans afoot to try and correct the mistakes the crept in.
"We made few mistakes in wet races, where we are not traditionally very strong," the Italian conceded, "From 2009, we learnt that all competitors are very strong and very motivated and we have to consider them at the top level. Sometimes, we will have to accept to finish behind them if it is not possible to win. This is the biggest lesson we have learnt from last year."
Asked who he expected to see Rossi battling with in 2010, two familiar names were at the top of Brivio's list.
"I would put [Casey] Stoner and Lorenzo at the same level because, at the end of last season, they were very strong," he revealed, "These four riders will be the main players for the championship. Other rookies could be a surprise, like Ben [Spies] and [Marco] Simoncelli but I think that, for the championship, we have to consider these three or four riders."