Thanks to a stirring performance in the second half of the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic, Valentino Rossi was able to poke fun at himself, his team and his inability swap bikes at the correct time in a flag-to-flag scenario. "To understand the moment is not my strong point," he conceded.

The Italian salvaged a fine fourth place on the final lap after an error in judgement cost him the shot at a podium at the very least, leading him to later joke that he and five members of his team were ‘donkeys’, as his Movistar crew had not signalled for him to pit as early as was needed.

Sitting first early on with wet tyres on a rapidly drying track, Rossi stayed on track until the end of lap five, losing crucial time to Marc Marquez (who pitted after lap two), Dani Pedrosa and Maverick Viñales (both pitted on lap four).

At first, it appeared this would cost the 38-year old dear. Rossi was 14th on lap six, but set about clawing ground back on the top three. To finish just over two seconds back of Viñales at the flag, after cheekily nicking fourth place from Cal Crutchlow on the final lap, eased Rossi’s strain.

“I’m very happy this time because normally I’m the only stupid,” he quipped. “This time we are four or five. We share the ‘donkey’ name. This time, like I said, we are a bit unlucky.

“It’s always difficult in these conditions with the flag-to-flag. For sure it’s not my stronger point, this type of racing. At the end the result is not so bad. We improve a lot from the other flag-to-flag. I finish fourth. I think before the end of my career we can defeat this flag-to-flag race.

“At the end the result is not so bad. I think in the full dry or the full wet race I can fight for the podium for sure. But remains a good weekend because I work well in the box. I feel good with the bike and I was strong in the wet and dry.

“The race was very hard. I push very hard from the beginning until the end. It’s a shame because we could take more points and arrive on the podium. But it’s like this. Considering the conditions, fourth place is not so bad.”

Pressed on why he had not pitted when it was apparent dry tyres were the best option, Rossi offered, “First of all, it’s a lot different compared to last year because last year, the track never dried up. At the end we finished with the wet tyres. We know this time could be a flag-to-flag, but I didn’t think so on the first lap.

“For some reason, maybe less water, the track dried quickly. Usually in the first lap with the slicks in the wet, we are a bit in trouble with the Yamaha. I tried to push as much as possible in the wet because I was stronger, to have a small advantage with the slick.”

Sunday’s encounter had parallels with the German Grand Prix last year, where Marquez pitted for slicks ahead of the rest, and Rossi lost out. However, the Italian was keen to point out one difference: last year he had disobeyed the team's advice, while this time around the order did not come soon enough.

“It’s not like last year," he said. "We agreed with my team to [show] ‘BOX’ and when I see ‘BOX’ I come back [to pit lane]. Unfortunately the board arrive one lap later. I always have the problem in this condition that I’m first. A lot of riders are helped by being in the second group. One enters and everyone enters.

“The problem is I was a bit too strong in the wet. Last year at the Sachsenring they put the board out for me but I continue. I said, ‘When I see the board I come back. I promise.’ But unfortunately the board arrive a bit too late. To understand the moment to come back is not my strong point. I think I can come back one lap earlier but this time we are also a bit unlucky.

“Anyway, fourth is better than eighth. Also, I enjoy. I recover and there were a lot of battles. It’s a shame, because in a normal race I could fight for the podium in both conditions.”

The performance sees Rossi remain fourth in the championship standings, but the Italian now sits 22 points behind leader Marquez.

 

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