Valentino Rossi was left to play down his failed strategy in Saturday afternoon’s Q1 session, instead focussing on an FP3 mistake that “destroyed the day” and forced him to start the Italian Grand Prix from a disastrous 18th place.

Never in 23 years of competition has the nine-time world champion started so far back at Mugello, a track he used to call his own and one at which he took two pole positions in recent years (2016 and ’18).

“First of all today we improved, especially this morning we improved the pace,” began Rossi. “In the morning I was not so bad. FP3 was quite good. I had quite good pace.

“Unfortunately at the end we did the time attack. Two laps from the end I was on a very good lap and it was enough to stay in the top six and go to Q2. It was also scary because the exit from Biondetti I had a big shake in fourth gear and when I arrived at the last corner I braked but the brake touched the rubber.

“I tried to stay [on track] but in the end I go [wide]. In the end it’s a mistake. That mistake destroyed the day because Q1 was very difficult. There were Dovizioso and Pirro, who are a lot faster than me on the hot lap.

“Anyway in the afternoon I suffered more. I use used tyres but I was more in trouble compared to this morning. When I arrived in Q1 I tried. In Q1 I waited for Rins but Rins didn’t want to make the lap, I didn’t want to make the lap.

“In the end I took the flag one second [after it was put out] but sincerely the problem was not the flag. I didn’t have the potential to improve. It’s like this.

“Tomorrow will be very difficult because I am really, really, really behind. Also my pace is better than my position but it’s not fantastic. It will be a long race and tough.”

On his issues in the afternoon, he expanded: “This morning I had new tyres and I was able to stay in 47s low. This afternoon I had used tyres but I suffered. I was more slow. With more temperature I suffer more with rear tyre.

“For this reason after some laps my pace is not fantastic, and I have to slow down too much. This is the bigger problem. Tomorrow morning we will try to make something different.

“[With] The front usually we have to fight a bit because we don’t have enough contact with the front and it’s a bit difficult to ride the bike. But sincerely I didn’t expect to suffer like this. I expect to be stronger at Mugello.”

Does he consider this to be his worst qualifying performance at Mugello? “I don’t know about the position but it’s possible, yeah,” he said.

“In general it’s a very difficult weekend already from yesterday. Sincerely I am a bit more happy because I ride better. Yesterday we try something different to improve the bike but unfortunately it didn’t work.

“Today I’m better. But now the level of the other bikes and riders is very high and we improve very much the lap time compared to last year. This is a problem because it looks like for us it’s difficult to go faster.”

 

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