Valentino Rossi believes more than simply having a good test team, Yamaha needs to have a “serious” testing programme if it is to improve its troubled MotoGP challenger. Yamaha is the manufacturer with the most wins this season, having tallied up seven from the 13 grands prix run so far.
But three of those have come from Franco Morbidelli on the 2019 ‘A-spec’ Petronas SRT M1, with the Italian currently the leading Yamaha rider in second in the standings following his Valencia Grand Prix win. Consistency has deserted those on the 2020 M1, with Fabio Quartararo only scoring one other top five finish outside of his wins, with the same going for Maverick Vinales outside of his Misano win and double Jerez podium.
Rossi, who has just one podium to his credit in a year plagued by bad luck and a two-race COVID-19 layoff, believes one of the biggest issues Yamaha has had in understanding its 2020 bike is the absence of a European-based test team.
“There is a basic problem, first of all,” Rossi began.
“Until 2020, all the other teams had a very active test team that ran in Europe and with European riders like [Michele] Pirro, [Dani] Pedrosa and [Stefan] Bradl.
“Yamaha, on the other hand, does not have the team. There was only the one that ran in Japan with the Japanese test drivers.
“But the biggest problem isn’t even that, it’s that he ran on tracks that have nothing to do with the European ones.”
Yamaha did set up a European test team with ex-Tech3 rider Jonas Folger last year, but scrapped it for 2020 to have a unified test team combining the European and Japanese parts of the race squad – but operating out of Japan.
When COVID-19 hit, Yamaha’s test plans with Jorge Lorenzo were completely ruined, with the Spaniard only ever riding the 2019 M1 four times this year – the last of which coming in Portugal last month ending with him four seconds off the pace. Lorenzo has been let go for 2021, with outgoing LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow taking on the role of Yamaha’s test rider.
Rossi admits his first choice was Andrea Dovizioso, who was close to a deal before opting for a sabbatical instead, but welcomes Crutchlow’s arrival.
“Yamaha needs to have a serious test team in Europe next year,” Rossi added.
“I would have liked a lot if the test rider was Dovizioso, because he is a very fast, sensitive and highly experienced rider.
“Crutchlow also raced up to this year, so if he has motivation he is one who can take the bike to the limit.
“More than a test rider, you need a serious test team program.”
Strong test teams have been thrust into the spotlight this season following KTM’s race-winning success, something in large part attributed to Pedrosa’s work with the marque since last year. Sylvain Guintoli’s work with Suzuki since 2017 has also been praised as a contributing factor in the Japanese manufacturer being in a position to win the 2020 title with Joan Mir.