Valentino Rossi fears Yamaha has made minimal improvements to the performance problems with rear grip and traction which hampered its 2018 MotoGP campaign after suffering with familiar issues at the 2019 opener in Qatar.

The Monster Yamaha rider carved up the field from 14th on the grid, after a disastrous qualifying struggling with front tyre wear, to reach fifth place by the chequered flag. The 40-year-old confirmed his team had got on top of the front tyre issue for the race but his charge was limited by his lowly grid position.

But more worryingly for Rossi he conceded a lack of rear tyre traction, blaming a collective lack of mechanical and electrical grip, is still hurting his pace and believes limited progress has been made over winter testing in representative performance gains compared to Yamaha’s rivals.

“We worked by modifying the setting of the bike and also for the race we made some other adjustments which worked and I am happy because it was a good race. I feel good with the bike today and I enjoyed it coming from the back so it is not so bad,” Rossi said.

“The problem is that we are more or less like last year. I arrived in fifth place which is good, especially being 0.6s from the victory. But in this track we are always good so we have to keep working because in some other places we could have some more problems. We will take this result. The podium, I tried for it, but I was not strong enough.

“The problems are more or less the same. In some areas we improved but unfortunately we are always struggling with the rear grip and it is difficult.”

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Rossi feels Yamaha’s grip issues are masked at the Qatar track as it plays to the strengths of his MotoGP machine while he fears he will suffer more at tracks less suited to Yamaha.

“The problem is that also last year in Qatar we were good,” he said. “For some reason the tyre slides here but resists. At other tracks usually when the tyre slides the performance drops more. So for me we are more or less on the same boat.”

Rossi also believes Yamaha’s MotoGP rivals have made comparatively bigger steps in performance, most notably Suzuki, as he finished behind Alex Rins and struggled to get past his rookie team-mate Joan Mir.

“It was a good race but the problem is that we arrived behind Ducati, Honda, non-factory Honda and also behind Suzuki,” he explained. “The problem is that Suzuki is strong here. Cal was very strong here last year. I was able to beat him in the fight I lost less time so more or less Cal is at the same level. But the bigger improvement is from the Suzukis.”

Last year at the Qatar round, Rossi claimed the final rostrum spot in third place 0.797s behind race-winner Andrea Dovizioso but this year he finished in fifth place but just 0.600s off the winner.

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