Contemplating a deficit of 22 points in the world championship, as he did five days ago, was no big drama for Valentino Rossi. But, after another frustrating day for both himself and Movistar Yamaha, the Italian believes the quest for a tenth world title will be  “very difficult” as the Italian lost further ground in Austria.

Although in the victory hunt through the first ten laps, Rossi faded badly, a considerable mistake at turn one on lap 14 unable to hide his struggles in the race’s second half. The 38-year old didn’t mince his words after, either. “I was slow,” he conceded.

Seventh, a place behind team-mate Maverick Viñales, and five behind championship leader Marc Marquez, was not what the Italian had in mind for a race that was supposed to see Honda falter, as the flaws in the make up of the 2017 Yamaha M1 were once again exposed.

On this occasion, Rossi spoke of the machine’s inability to manage the rear tyre. By lap twelve, he was struggling for grip, and he never appeared likely to challenge the podium men from then on.

“It was a difficult race for sure,” said Rossi, who slips to 33 points behind Marquez in the title race. “For me, for Maverick and also for all the team. We expect, we hope to go faster, to be stronger. I think that we do the maximum. We don’t have any regrets for the setting and also for the tyre choice because in the first lap I was strong.

“I think that the hard for us was the right option. We worked a lot to not destroy the tyre, the rear. In fact, in FP4 I was fast for ten laps, like today. But after twelve laps I had a big drop from the rear tyre and I have to slow down a lot. The bike become very difficult to ride and I did also one mistake in braking.

“Anyway, I was slow. We have to work because we stress too much the rear tyre and especially Honda and Ducati find something to be fast without using the rear too much. If you look at the fastest lap and the fastest section, we are very close. There are two Yamahas in the first two fastest laps – me and Zarco.

“But after we have to slow down and we lose the fight. We arrive behind. So a lot of times this year this problem happen and we work hard. It looks like in some races and at some tracks we suffer less. But we suffer like this it becomes very difficult. In the second half of the race we are not strong enough. We have to try to improve this thing, continue to work and to be stronger in the next races.

“Sincerely, I was quite optimistic because Lorenzo and Dovi have the soft rear. Me and Marc have the hard. I was behind Zarco with the soft, so I think I can fight for the podium. But unfortunately after twelve laps I have a big drop down and everything start to become difficult. Unfortunately I have to slow down and the last laps I was a lot in trouble.”

After a spate of chassis and set-up changes in recent months, Viñales had spoken of his confusion at Yamaha’s current struggles. Rossi, on the other hand, was clear. The chassis switch in June eradicated his turning issues of the Spring. But, issues with tyre degradation are now a real issue.

“For me, we improved the turning of the bike that was an issue. For me personally in the other difficult races like Jerez and Barcelona for example, I was never strong. I was always slow from the first lap because I feel a lot of understeer.

“Also, compared to the older bike. After we work and I think we improve because today in the first ten laps I have a good pace but the degradation of the rear tyre remain the problem. I think mechanically the other bikes use less the rear tyre and also they find some better solution for the electronics to make good acceleration without spin.”

And why hadn’t he contemplated the soft rear tyre, that carried satellite Yamaha man Johann Zarco to a fine fifth? “Different story,” Rossi explained. “Zarco can use the soft because he’s lighter, shorter and also have a riding style very, very smooth so a lot of the time he’s able to use softer tyres than everyone. It’s not my case and also the case of Maverick. We have stronger and more aggressive riding styles.

“I try also the soft this morning, but for me my tyre choice was the right one, because if I raced with the soft it would have been worse. In the case of Dovi, it’s the bike that is able to carry the softer tyre, because Dovi is another one that rides aggressive – more similar to me and Maverick than Zarco, but it looks like the bike use less the rear tyre.”

Assessing his championship position, Rossi added, “Very difficult, because it’s at 33 points but also because we suffer. At some tracks we are not strong. The Hondas – Marc but also Pedrosa – is the bike that made the bigger step compared to last year, because last year they were in trouble. This year they are very strong. They find some good solution for this condition.”



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