While his physical condition may not have reflected it, Valentino Rossi was able to put a positive spin on the first day of testing as he battled through the strains of an “unbelievable” headache to assess Yamaha's new M1 at Sepang.
Rossi was some way off from feeling his best, the headache reducing him to an incapacitated state in his hotel bed in the morning.
After ninety minutes rest, Rossi made his way to the track, and was pleased with his first impressions of the all-new M1. The machine has made strides “under all the small particulars” he said, with the engine and updated electronics notable steps up from what he tested in November.
The M1's Achilles heel in 2016 was an inability to preserve its rear tyre in the second half of the race, a facet Yamaha's engineers have been keen to remedy over the winter months. With team-mate Maverick Viñales placing third and Rossi eighth, early signs were positive.
“Fortunately [the new bike's] better,” said the Italian, who placed eighth in the overall timesheets, 1.014s off Casey Stoner's astonishing best time.
“I mean today was very interesting because we tried the real bikes, my bikes that I will use for all the season. In Japan they worked hard and made a better bike compared to the prototype we had in November.
“The engine, we work a lot on the electronics and in terms of chassis, this is the same. But tomorrow we will have another chassis, slightly different, after our comments with the first prototype. But the bike is very beautiful.
“We never know a lot from Yamaha. Yesterday we saw the bike. They made a good job. The bike is very good under all the small particulars. It's a lot better than the first prototype. And it was a good surprise. But for sure we have a lot to work on.
“For me our bigger problem last year was that we stressed too much the rear tyre and we suffer in the last laps. In fact, we work a lot from that point of view and we have some interesting things.”
On the headache, that had the 37-year old some way off his peak condition, he said, “[It was] Bad. This morning I woke up with an unbelievable headache. I suffer a lot. I had to stay in the room with no light, no sound for one hour and a half to try and recover.
“Maybe it was the air conditioning or the flight. I don't know. But I don't feel very well. Sincerely we start to train quite hard but we don't have a lot of time because we have a lot to do. I am not at the maximum.”
Asked to assess the riding style of new team-mate Viñales, Rossi noted the 22-year old's means of braking and entering the corner is comparable to his own.
“First of all he's very fast,” he said of Viñales.
“The riding style, especially in the way to brake and the way to enter the corner, is more similar to me compared to Lorenzo. Lorenzo had a more particular riding style, yes.
“Apart from that he's very fast. He rides very well, especially in the fast parts. He's strong on braking. Also in acceleration, he picks the bike up in the right way. It's good.
“[On whether style is similar in middle to exit] Sincerely it depends on the corner but in acceleration I want to say Viñales rides more normal. Lorenzo rides more particular.”
Rossi had one final word for Ducati test rider Stoner, who completed a phenomenal feat in topping the time sheets on day one. “He's very fast, yes,” noted Rossi. “It's very good that he don't race!”