VALENTINO ROSSI fans need to ignore the MotoGP superstar’s lacklustre showing in winter testing says BT Sport pundit Neil Hodgson.
The Doctor, who turned 40 last month, doesn’t usually shine during the off season preparations.
He finished way down the pecking order in 10th during the Sepang test as Yamaha engineers looked to get the bike up to scratch.
And, during testing in Qatar last week, it was rookie Fabio Quartararo who was second quickest on the lower-spec M1 bike.
Hodgson, however, insists Rossi’s strategy is clear.
“We can ignore his testing,” Hodgson exclusively told Starsport.
“What he does is use testing for the right reasons – not to flatter his ego.
“It’s to test parts on the motorcycle – new and improved parts.
“When you test the parts – or say a new electronics strategy – you have to do race distance and lots of laps on new tyres. That’s what he does.
“Look at some of the younger riders, the rookies, they’ve had some great tests.
“But they’re just riding around in circles. Every five laps they put a new rear tyre in and do a fast lap.
“That puts them up on the timing sheet and everybody is like: ‘Wow, Fabio Quartararo is incredible.’
“Well, yea, he is incredible but while all that’s happening Rossi is trying to make his bike better for the season.
“That’s experience – it’s what you’d expect from him.”
Ahead of the season curtain raiser on Sunday, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez are both recovering from injuries.
Rossi is fully fit, although question marks remain over the competitiveness of his bike.
Hodgson reckons the bike is a better overall package but it might not be good enough to hand Rossi the title.
“It’s difficult to say [if the bike will be good enough] as they’ve not made huge changes,” he added.
“It’s been relatively small changes to the motorcycle.
“I can’t confidently say Rossi has a chance of winning the title.
“But clearly Yamaha have needed to make a step and they have definitely improved their bike.”
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