Monday, October 30, 2006

Where Rossi went wrong

Now we've had a day to reflect on Nicky Hayden's maiden MotoGP championship, it's interesting to consider what went wrong for Valentino Rossi this year. A look at some statistics shows some interesting trends:

Ignoring his first year in the premier class, Rossi has 98 GP starts. He didn't win 42 of them (which means he won 56, a staggering figure in itself). Of those 42 non-wins, nearly 1/3 of them were this year.

To prove the point, here's the percentage of races he didn't win, by year:

  • 2001 - 31%
  • 2002 - 31%
  • 2003 - 44%
  • 2004 - 44%
  • 2005 - 35%
  • 2006 - 70%
Even more incredibly, of his 11 non-top 10 finishes since 2001, nearly 1/2 of them were in 2006. This really shows how awful his season was. The question is, why?
  • In Jerez, he was involved in a first turn crash, precipitated by his low qualifying position. This was blamed on poor development on the Yamaha over the winter. Blame Yamaha.
  • In China, he retired with tyre problems. Blame Michelin, or perhaps blame Yamaha, after only being able to qualify 13th on a mean-handling bike, and perhaps using up ALL of his tyre to get up to third in the race.
  • In France, he retired with engine problems. Blame Yamaha.
  • In Holland, he had a massive practice crash but fought back to 8th in the race. Still, a huge bag of points were lost to Hayden who won the race. Blame Rossi or maybe blame Yamaha for giving him a bike where he was forced to push harder than normal due to a continually wretched chassis.
  • In the USA, he retired with engine problems. Blame Yamaha.
As you can see, Yamaha had a big hand in Rossi's failure to clinch the title. He still managed five wins, four seconds, a third and a fourth, a combination that could be expected to be sufficient, unless your rival is the ultra-consistent Nicky Hayden.

When all is said and done, to win in any professional racing series you need speed, luck and reliability. Although he had the first, this year he was missing the second and third. You can't control luck. You can control reliability. Shame on Yamaha.

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