The winter test in Sepang were full of surprises but a lot more stable than last year when we used to see more crashes due to the new Michelin tires. A lot of these surprises came from the changing of riders between teams breaking long lasting relationships like the one with Lorenzo and Yamaha or Iannone and Ducati. But let’s analyse one by one.
We’ve seen a lot of changes last year from the tires to the new unified electronic. 2016 was also the year that teams started to follow Ducati in the development of winglets. The commission decided to ban them for safety reasons although Ducati proved to be safe. The second reason was for purely economic, to help small teams who couldn’t spend a lot of money on aerodynamics development. The consequences are that now everybody needs to redesign the whole fairing, so more work, more expenses.
Rossi says that the new bike is already very competitive. It has a more powerful engine and a new frame with a lot of mechanical grip but it doesn’t stress the tires like the 2016 bike. The great surprise here is Maverick Vinales. In every test he finished always in front of Rossi. We all know that Rossi shows his 100% potential just at the first race, never before but Maverick left Sepang with the best time and this is astonishing, I knew he was good but now we have to consider him as a title contender.
They brought two engines and this is pretty curious from Honda. There was a lot of confusion in the pit lane, first trying one solution and than the other. Marquez was not satisfied, he said they have to send everything back to Japan to analyse it. This confirms my theory about Marquez, he’s a super fast rider but he isn’t a rider who can develop a bike. They should follow Pedrosa, I think.
Another surprise, Iannone made the second best time at the second day and crashed twice on the third day. He is very satisfied with the Suzuki and with the team who gave him an immediate feedback to what he said after the first test in Valencia. the bike is less powerful than the Ducati but it handles a lot better.
Stoner is an alien. He’s the “test rider” you don’t want in your team because he’s able to make you look like a rookie. Stoner doesn’t race for years now but at the first day he made the fastest lap how is that possible? And how is this not a waste of talent? Lorenzo on the other side experienced one of his worst weekend. On the first day (when Stoner made the fastest lap) he was 17th. The last day 9th. This is the confirmation that Ducati is a special bike, it doesn’t adapt, the rider has to. the question is: will Lorenzo be able to adapt fast enough?
The french tire producer made huge improvements from last year. So we hope we won’t have a season conditioned by tire problems like last year.
The next and last test will be on February the 17th in Philip Island.