It's relieving to know that even nine-time world champions aren't exempt from traffic frustrations in Le Mans as Valentino Rossi's fine-run of qualifying form was halted, thanks to a wrong strategy.
In part this was down to circumstance. The pole-sitter last time out, Rossi had to take avoiding action when Dani Pedrosa fell on the entry to turn four, abort his lap and return to pit lane.
As he re-emerged and attempted to climb the order, the Italian found Maverick Viñales and Pol Espargaro in his vicinity and a disappointing seventh fastest time – some 0.85s slower than team-mate Jorge Lorenzo – means Rossi will begin a race off the front two rows for the first time in 2016.
“Today, fortunately, we improve a lot our speed, our potential,” said Rossi. “This is important, this is the most important. And I was more competitive. But still not enough, we have to improve a little bit, but unfortunately, with my speed, with my potential, I can start more in front, but we did some mistakes in the qualifying.
“We did a wrong strategy, and unfortunately I was stuck in traffic, I lose a lot of time. But at the end, I had another chance to make a good lap, and I was not so bad, but I made a mistake in sector three, and I lose a lot unfortunately. If not, I think my potential is to start in the top five, but I have to start from the third row, from seventh, so for sure is more difficult.
“Unfortunately, Pedrosa crashed in front of me, and I have to stop the lap. So that moment, I have to come back in the box. It's not very easy, because if you push, they push, if you slow down, they slow down. So after your exit, if you are in traffic, fuck traffic, after it is very difficult to go free. But anyway, it is like this.”
Trailing chief adversary Marc Marquez by 24 points in the championship, Rossi is still hopeful of a strong finish, should he make overnight improvements in “two or three points” of the track.
Comparing his strengths and weaknesses to Lorenzo, whose advantage over second placed Marquez was a commanding four tenths of a second, Rossi feels the Majorcan holds the upper hand in stopping the bike, and outright speed.
“The race pace is not so bad, but from the third row everything is more difficult, but we can try to make a not so bad race. We have to improve a little bit more, we have to try tomorrow to make another step, because if we are able to improve two or three points, like two tenths a lap, I can also be more competitive.
“And for sure from the third row, it is difficult, it will be difficult with the Ducatis, but will be difficult with everybody, with all the guys in front of me. But it's like this, we have to try, we have to work, we have to improve a little bit tomorrow, and we shall see.
“[To Lorenzo] We lose a bit in two or three braking points, he is able to stop the bike in a better way, and we lose a little bit in the straight. So it depends a little bit on some settings, so we need to improve two or three points, and we can have something to do a little bit better.”
Due to share a garage with one of either Maverick Viñales or Dani Pedrosa in 2017, Rossi was then asked what advice he would give to the Suzuki man. In reply, he explained that it depended on the challenge Viñales craves.
“For me, I speak without knowing anything, without knowing the contract, without knowing the money, and nothing. Like you said, in Suzuki, is something more romantic, he become like Kevin Schwantz and try to remain with Suzuki.
“The bike have a good potential, but is more difficult. Yamaha is stronger, is for sure a great bike, so is another type of challenge. So is just a choice what he wants to do.”