Valentino Rossi and the Amazing Qualifying Turnaround


What Happens When the Fastest Man on a Yamaha, Isn’t…Always

Rossi on his qualifying machine of choice in 2008. or, is that just what the stats suggest? Photo by Albert Reid at IMS, 2008

Rossi on his qualifying machine of choice in 2008. or, is that just what the stats suggest? Photo by Albert Reid at IMS, 2008

— Is Valentino Rossi qualifying much better this season, particularly when compared to last season?

This question first began percolating during the Assen GP weekend.  As compared to last seasion, Rossi appeared to be qualifying far better this season.  It was enough to make one wonder if Rossi generally qualifies badly and simply worries about making good starts?  Was last season an aberration?  The statistics seem to determine the following:

Since moving to Yamaha in 2004, he has averaged pole position approximately less than half as often as he has finished first.  (except for 2006 and 2007, both years when he lost the championship with the, presumably, under-preforming Yamaha…and, of course, this season)  In 2004, Rossi won the pole 31% of the time, but finished 1st 56%, of the time (but won the championship).  In 2005, it was 29% poles, 65% wins (and a championship win).  2006: 29% for both poles and wins (second in the championship to Honda-mounted Nicky Hayden).  2007: 22% each (third in the championship behind Casey Stoner’s Ducati and Dani Pedrosa’s Honda).  2008: poles 10% of the time, with wins 47% of the time.  So far this season: poles 44% of the time, with wins 40% of the races.  Of course, had he not crashed out from the lead last weekend at Donington Park, it might have been 44%/44%.

Conclusion: hypothesis correct, particularly when comparing last season to what has happened so far this season.  Rossi has already doubled the number of poles at the halfway point of this season that he had in total last season.  He’s only 1 pole shy of the greatest number of poles he’s achieved per season at Yamaha (5 in 2004, 2005, and 2006), and he’s only just past halfway.

The only question left now is “why?”  Rossi won the championship last year; obviously the Yamaha preformed admirably.  Why so few poles, but so many points?  For that, I leave the more experienced minds.

(all statistics gathered from the Official MotoGP website)

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