30 March 2015
MotoGP Qatar Smith: Factory Yamahas made ‘huge step’
"We need to have a look at the Factory Yamaha team's data because they made a huge step between warm-up and the race" - Bradley Smith.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Bradley Smith was satisfied with eighth place in Sunday's Qatar MotoGP, having delivered the pace expected from practice.
But he was surprised by the leap in performance made by Factory Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.
Smith qualified between Lorenzo and Rossi in seventh. However his best race lap was 0.7s slower than Lorenzo and 0.8s behind race winner Rossi.
“That was a very positive finish to the weekend but we need to have a look at the Factory team's data and see what they did between warm-up and the race, because we had the pace all weekend to follow them,” said Smith, speaking at the Losail Circuit on Sunday evening.
“I didn't believe that we could beat them, but thought we could at least follow them. But they made a huge step between warm-up and the race.”
Asked why the pre-race form appeared to change so much during the 22-lap grand prix, Smith replied:
“I'm sure Honda are scratching their heads even more than me! I don't know if it was conditions, or settings, or what. But to see Ducati and especially Valentino doing low '55s at the end of the race - that's something we haven't seen all weekend and didn't see at the test - seems a bit magic!
“Honda seemed to lose a little bit of pace too, but Marc was doing the 55.5-55.8s we've seen him do all weekend long. But you just can't compete when someone finds 0.6 or 0.8 a lap. We'll try and figure out what went on, and bring something better for Austin.
“There wasn't anything holding me back in the race - I did the exact same lap times I did when I was in the rhythm during practice and qualifying. I just did the same lap time as I had been but the other guys found half a second a lap.
“The good thing is that we can look at that data and analyse it, and try to figure out how, why and where. Instead of scratching our heads, there's going to be some answers to it. So there are a few things we can learn from that, which can only be positive for us in the future.
“It's great for Yamaha, though, to come away with a win after what looked like being a tough weekend for them.”
Smith finished the race just half-a-second from former team-mate and top satellite rider Cal Crutchlow.
“I think we have to be really happy with coming away in eighth. We were only half a second away from being top satellite rider, and I've said from the start I want to be top satellite bike. There are certain areas where I need to improve during the race - being too hesitant and not passing Yonny when I first could have cost me the opportunity to beat Cal. They're all details to fix in the future.”
Having lost out to the soft-tyre Ducati of Yonny Hernandez in qualifying, Smith spent the middle stages of the race behind the Colombian, now running the same medium compound rear.
“Ducati especially and Yonny in particular you have to adapt. He's got a different way of riding, and I was struggling to pass him. Especially off the corners,” Smith explained. “That's somewhere where Ducati are strong at the moment. How early they can touch the throttle and drive.
“I struggled to get close enough to pass him, and that's somewhere where we need to look for the future and create a more diverse setting that lets me do some different things. I was pretty much one pace, one riding style - doing an 'FP4 race'. You need to be able to take different lines and mix things up a bit, and I wasn't able to do that.”
Comparing his satellite M1 to Crutchlow's LCR Honda, Smith said: “We're pretty similar; the Honda has some strengths but Cal didn't come past me and make me go 'whoa.' He wasn't doing too much that was dissimilar to me, which is encouraging for the future and I think there'll be plenty more good battles between me and him.”
Smith narrowly avoided being clipped by world champion Marc Marquez at turn one of the grand prix.
“I didn't know it was Marc in the first corner, but I saw someone run on. He didn't touch me, but I braked late, leant it in, and didn't know what happened behind me.”
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