YAMAHA are finally getting to grips with the electronics on Valentino Rossi’s bike.
That’s according to MotoGP insider and BT Sport pundit Neil Hodgson who says the M1 could be a different beast this season.
Yamaha were ravaged by technical issues last term.
Rossi performed admirably – and still finished third in the 2018 championship – but the veteran Italian was at loggerheads with Yamaha boffins for the bulk of the campaign.
Ahead of the new season which kicks off in Qatar on Sunday, Yamaha bikes have been performing solidly in testing.
“Whether it’s enough to beat a Ducati and a Honda week in, week out, is a great unknown.”
Hodgson says Rossi’s team have been working hard to ensure his machine is fit for purpose.
“I’ve been in the paddock today trying to get some information,” he exclusively told Starsport.
“They’ve been doing some small things, working on the electronics side they’ve made a step.
“Electronically now they’ve been able to get the bike to stop quicker by using the engine braking.
“It’s a real fine line, because if you get too much engine braking via the electronics it can lock the rear wheel.
“But, they’ve sort of fine tuned that a bit and also on traction control they’ve made that even smoother.
“Before they had issues where it was cutting in and out a bit.
“It would make the bike pump – the rear of the bike would pump – and that can then overheat the tyre.
“They’ve improved that area, so that in turn means the tyre life is a bit better which has been one of their major problems.
“Whether it’s enough to beat a Ducati and a Honda week in, week out, is a great unknown.
“We’ll get an insight into it come Sunday.”
Despite the hard work behind the scenes, Rossi has refused to wax lyrical about his M1 in testing.
His team-mate, Maverick Vinales, has been more enthusiastic about the bike’s development.
Hodgson says he understands why the 40-year-old superstar is being restrained.
“He has been a bit grumpy with it, but he’s grumpy for the right reasons,” Hodgson added.
“He’s grumpy because if you tell all your engineers: ‘that’s great, it’ll do’, then that’s where the level of the bike will be.
“Rossi is the old dog, he knows he has to keep banging the hammer and saying: ‘we need this bike to be better if you want me to win a world tile.’”
* Watch every moment of the MotoGP season exclusively live on BT Sport 2, with three full days of action every race weekend. Watch the Qatar Grand Prix on Sunday March 10 from 5pm on BT Sport 2. For more info visit www.bt.com/sport