By Stephen English
Valentino Rossi has spoken at length about his upcoming return to Yamaha and also about his failure to be competitive during his time with Ducati.
For the first time in his 16 year career the Italian has been unable to compete at the front of the field and the strain of being in the midfield has been clear throughout his tenure with Ducati.
At most races Rossi has looked like an imposter on the track and has lacked his trademark spark in the paddock.
The nine times world champion still routinely makes jokes during his interviews and gives a cheeky smile while waiting on the grid before a race, but his inability to perform aboard the Ducati has clearly made him rethink his standing amongst his rivals.
It is amazing to think that the rider who has been called the greatest of all time and who dominated the premier-class for the better part of a decade has lost his spark and self-confidence.
Yet in numerous interviews throughout the season this has clearly been the case.
Rossi is now looking forward to returning to Yamaha and attempting to rekindle the spark of their previous partnership, when they won 46 races and four titles together, whilst at the same time admitting he is unsure of his speed.
His autobiography was famously called “What if I never tried it,” but he is openly questioning whether he can still do it.
Two years ago the paddock was thrilled by the prospect of Rossi riding the blood red Ducati. However their relationship was uneasy from the start with Rossi struggling during the Valencia test the day after finishing on the podium in what looked like being his final ride for Yamaha.
“I was never fast with that bike from the first test to now,” said Rossi. “Unfortunately together with Ducati we were not able to improve the bike and to fix the problem that the bike have.”
Clash of philosophies
When Rossi joined Ducati the Desmosedici used a carbon-fibre chassis with the engine as a stressed member, but this has now been dropped in favour of a traditional aluminum frame and unstressed engine.
The team has manufactured numerous swingarms - carbon fibre and aluminium - and changed the weight distribution to try and give a more responsive bike and allow Rossi to have increased confidence in the front end.