If Valentino Rossi
fails to finish on the podium in front of his home fans at Mugello this weekend, it will match his longest rostrum absence as a Yamaha MotoGP rider.
That came in 2007, when Rossi went four successive races without a podium on an underperforming - and at times unreliable - first version of the 800cc M1.
Returning to Yamaha after two poor seasons at Ducati, Rossi began this season in style with second place at Qatar, but hasn't been able to repeat that fighting form in the three races since.
“After the first race in Qatar that was very good for me, I've been struggling a bit much; we expected to be stronger, especially at Jerez and at Le Mans, in the dry. In the wet I was not so bad but I made a mistake and threw away the chance of a good result,” said Rossi at Mugello on Thursday.
“We have work to do, we need to increase my speed and my potential - which I think we can do. Especially Marquez, Lorenzo and Pedrosa are very strong, but also Cal [Crutchlow] is very fast.
“Now in MotoGP you need to be at 100% in all practices and arrive on Sunday afternoon at more than 100%, if you want to stay in front from the first lap to the last. So it is a hard job for everybody, but it is also the same for everybody and we have to try.”
But Rossi, whose seventh and most recent title came in 2009, denied that the level of the riders at the front of MotoGP has gone up in recent years.
“For me it is not right to speak about 'another level' - it is different,” he explained. “Young riders are stronger for sure. They are the 'next model'. When an old car exits, the next model is always better.
“Also the way to ride the bike has changed a lot in recent years. Now you need to do different tricks on the bike that for an 'old rider' like me are difficult,” he smiled.