Having several days to consider the Austrian Grand Prixand his post-race comments
, Bradley Smith reiterated his frustration at finishing his “second best race” of the season ninth, 29 seconds from the race winner. Finishing that far back “is miserable,” said the Englishman.
Smith's main frustration stemmed from a summer's worth of intensive training, which led him to pin his hopes on “a miracle cure” for his early season issues at the start of the season's second half. Sadly, there wasn't.
Missing the two-day test there in July was one of the reasons Smith left the Austrian race weekend with a sour taste in his mouth. Another was the fact Yamaha engineers miscalculated his M1's fuel consumption during the race, leaving him down on power. He ended the 28 laps with ten percent of the fuel remaining.
“I think having another week to reflect on it, the simple thing is you just hoped things would have got a little bit better,” said Smith in Austria. “Going away for three weeks, you have a chance to refresh and think about certain items of your riding, your championship so far.
“You just hoped after three weeks that everyone would do a bit of number crunching and come up with something for the rest of the season. When you show up on the bike and it's like, it still has the same dirt on it that it had in the Sachsenring, you're a bit like, 'It's not getting better and it doesn't look like it will.
“Also I can't expect that it will. It's been like that since my time here with Yamaha. The bike you get at the beginning of the season is the same as what you have at the end. We've been around the merry-go-round in terms of settings and things like that so far in the first nine races.
“I just hoped there was going to be a miracle cure for it. And there wasn't. After finishing that weekend and riding really well in terms of my feeling and finishing ninth, so far behind the leaders once again… You're like, 'Man, this is starting to drag on me.' That's one of the reasons why I said what I said.”
Having struggled to replicate his form of 2015 in the first half of the year, Smith approached the summer break as a time to regroup. While others enjoyed a break, the 25-year old decided to work doubly hard on his physical preparation.
When he recognised his added efforts were leading to no great upturn in results, it became impossible to ignore his frustration.
“The problem with Austria is everything built up to that point. As I said, you went away, and I trained so hard during those three weeks. I didn't have a holiday. I saw Instagram pictures of this guy in Ibiza, this guy on a beach somewhere else. Someone on a boat and I'm like, 'I'm going to just do everything I can.' Then I turn up [in Austria] and it's just the same situation. These guys are at the front disappearing into the distance and you're sat there doing the absolute best that you can for 30 seconds behind.
“It just seems so unfair but racing is like that. That frustration comes out because you let other peoples' situation affect yours. The fact that we didn't go testing there as well still bugs me. The fact that we gave other people a two-day head start. All those types of things just come out in the race. I said to myself, 'You know what? I rode good. I felt pretty good on the bike.
“A few things messed up in the race but I was ninth and 30 seconds behind. This is miserable.' And it is miserable. I'm not a rider that enjoys finishing 30 seconds behind. A lot of that grid feels like that. But you finish there and you think, ' We look like beginners out there.' That's something that gets to me in the end. The motivation still doesn't change.
“You still want to improve everyone wrong. You still want to beat everyone else. Right now inside the championship I'm not where I should be. I'm a lot of points behind my team-mate. At least Austria was a step in the right direction and I need to continue that on for the remaining eight races.
“I nearly jumped the start, like a lot of others. I think my head was over the screen to try and keep the bike from rolling forwards. I saw other people move and then tried to stop. I missed that. Bradl got in my way for three laps when he came out of the pits. He just sat in the middle of the track for three laps, sulking.
“Then, to be honest, the calculation by the Japanese inside our garage wasn't the best one. I didn't have much power etc etc, knock-on effect. To finish as close as we did wasn't so bad. I know that with that little bit more, at least [we could have been the top 'independent' rider], we would have gone to the podium, this, that and the other.
“[There was] Over ten percent [of fuel left after the race]. It was a big miscalculation. Especially when you know the factory riders finished with a different amount than you did, which makes it even harder to swallow. So no, stuff like that shouldn't happen but it continues to happen on a continuous basis.”
Asked whether having a contract with a factory-backed team for 2017 in place is a distraction, Smith continued, “I don't think so. Right here and now is so important. It's nice always to know that something next year is coming. It's not better in terms of results, but you know everyone is there going in one direction. You don't have an anchor trying to slow you down.”
To clarify what he meant by 'anchor', Smith said he was referring to the system in which riders have year-old machinery, a system he accepts is part and parcel of grand prix racing.
“It's difficult to put a name on one person, or people, or manufacturer. I think it's the whole thing. At the end of the day the team that is using old material was never designed to be successful. I think in terms of the whole package, that's where you're sat with.
“That's not a personal dig at here [Tech 3], which is why I said it's not one person or one manufacturer. I think it's a general thing. Teams with an old product are never designed to do what a rider wants it to do.”