Valentino Rossi concedes the pace of both VR46 academy riders Franco Morbidelli and Francesco Bagnaia at the Sepang test has worried him but he is also delighted to see his setup producing results earlier than expected.
Rossi says he never planned to compete in MotoGP against his own academy graduates when the system was initially set up but for 2019 he faces off against two members.
Bagnaia, a MotoGP rookie this year after winning the Moto2 title last season, impressed at the Sepang pre-season test by taking second spot on the final day’s timesheet – going under the lap record in the process – while Morbidelli switches to the new Petronas SRT Yamaha squad this year and ended the test fractionally faster than Rossi over a single lap.
“Impressive. In the hot lap is fantastic, my congratulations,” Rossi said about Bagnaia’s 1m 58.302s on the final day of the Sepang test. “I hope that in the races he will be more slow!
“He’s always fast in this test and made 1m 58.3s. Considering the small amount of experience I think that we have to keep attention of him.
“I try to poison when we are at home! I think it will be hard because with Franco, we are very very similar in the performance. He improved a lot. I think it will be difficult to arrive in front.”
Assessing his academy’s success, having helped bring in two riders into MotoGP despite only existing six years, Rossi sees both positives and negatives from the ‘problem’ of competing against his own riders in the premier class.
“When we started with the project of the academy with Pecco, Franco, we don’t expect this ‘problem’,” he said. “We don’t expect our riders to arrive to fight with me!
“So from one side I am very worried, from the other side we are very happy because in the academy we’ve worked well.
“But now it is like this. We help riders that maybe can beat me, but we cannot go back.”