Valentino Rossi admitted he simply had no answer to Cal Crutchlow as the Movistar Yamaha rider came from 15th place on the grid to seal the runner-up spot at Phillip Island in Australia.
Rossi had to start from the fifth row of the grid after a frustrating qualifying session on Saturday but made rapid progress through the field to move into second place.
The 37-year-old had Crutchlow in his sights after Marc Marquez fell from the lead of the race, but Rossi was unable to make any headway as British star Crutchlow turned the screw to edge clear by more than three seconds, eventually crossing the line on the LCR Honda to win comfortably by over four seconds.
“I tried to stay concentrated and not make any mistakes at the beginning like in Motegi, because the race was very long. I think the first ten laps were very good and I enjoyed very much. When I arrived behind Cal, also he was my target because I think I can beat him because this morning I was a bit stronger than him,” Rossi said.
“When I saw Marquez crash, I think I can win. I tried, but unfortunately for me Cal was too fast, too strong, and he is always very fast in Phillip Island – he always interprets this track in the maximum way.
“For me, the second half of the race was more difficult but this race is what we needed after the mistake in Motegi and after the bad day of yesterday, which I think was the most frustrating day of the season. It's very good for me and the team and Yamaha,” he added.
“I expect that Cal is strong in Phillip Island because in the second half of the season he was strong more or less everywhere in all the conditions, but this track for him is great – he was second also with the Ducati. I hoped to be a little bit faster than him but congratulations to him.”
Rossi was on the pace in morning warm-up after finally having the chance to use the dry setting from testing at Phillip Island back in February. The nine-time world champion immediately knew he had the potential to fight for the podium places despite his lowly grid position.
“When I woke this morning and looked out the window, I was already more happy. Especially after the warm-up I now that I can do a good pace and I know that I can arrive on the podium, which was the target,” Rossi said.
“We didn't change nothing from the warm-up and we tested the setting that we wanted to try on Friday morning. We rode with the Michelin tyres in this race track in February so we had the data and we know that the bike can be strong, but unfortunately with the weather, I never made one lap with this setting until this morning. So this morning we used the setting we had for Friday morning and we didn't change nothing for the race.”
Rossi has now opened a cushion of 24 points over team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in their personal battle to finish the championship in second place behind new world champion Marquez, but the Doctor says he is more concerned about ending the season as strongly as possible.
“I'm happy because I recovered some points but what I want to do is make good races from here to the end and try to fight for the podium. To gain ten points on Jorge is important but what we need is to try to be strong also in the last two races and try to make a race like today.
“Sepang will be another great challenge because for sure it's the toughest race of the season and it's very hot – you have to prepare well, sleep well, drink well and try to arrive ready because it is difficult. Usually we are quite strong and now we have to understand our bike with the new asphalt but the target is to fight for the podium.”
Spain's Maverick Vinales, who finished third on the Ecstar Suzuki, will join Rossi in the Movistar Yamaha team in 2017 and the Italian expects the young prospect to be a formidable opponent on the factory M1.
“I think we don't discover now the talent and speed of Maverick but he demonstrated already that he can be very strong. On the other side Lorenzo is a very hard team-mate, he is always fast and strong in all of the conditions,” said Rossi.
“Maybe at the end of the season sometimes he has more problems but he is one of the top riders without any doubt. I hope that Maverick is a little bit less but apart from the joke it will be very hard also with him.”