When and how did you receive the offer to be part of the ambitious Petronas Yamaha project?
“The first time I spoke about it with my manager was on the Monday after the Dutch TT. At that time, he just told me that there might be the possibility of moving up to MotoGP. From that point we took steps towards the dream every day, and it came true at Sachsenring, where we agreed a deal with the team.”
What were your thoughts when you first heard about this challenge?
“When my manager told me about it for the first time I didn’t believe him. Things progressed in the right way each day but obviously until I had signed the contract I couldn’t relax.”
Was the offer a surprise or were you planning to move up to the premier class in 2019?
“Honestly, I didn’t think that I would get such a good opportunity to move up to MotoGP this season. But once the first contact had been made, we knew that this team would be immediately fighting to be the best satellite team, that it would have a very professional technical staff and a very positive atmosphere, so I had no doubts in accepting the challenge.”
Did you change anything about your physical training before the first preseason tests?
“Yes, actually, on the flyaways I started to work more specifically on my arms but when I got on the MotoGP bike it wasn’t as physical as I expected. That doesn’t mean I don’t have work to do this winter, to be as prepared as possible going into the preseason and then the Grands Prix.”
What was the first lap like on a MotoGP bike?
“It was a very strange feeling. I was a bit anxious, I didn’t feel comfortable. Once I got onto the straight and was able to feel the power that these bikes have, that was… spectacular! The bike was still wheelying in sixth gear. That was one of the most fun straights of my life!”
What surprised you most about the bike during the tests?
“Even though I was expecting it, the power still surprised me, especially over the opening few laps. You get up to 300km/h very quickly. Little by little I got used to the speed, although I still have some way to go. But definitely the most striking thing was the carbon brakes. You get back down to 50km/h much quicker than on a Moto2 yet the braking points are virtually the same, it’s incredible.”
Do you get the feeling that you are going to have to change much with your riding style?
“Along with the technical staff we analysed how I am riding the bike and the truth is there is not much we need to change, which surprised me. I know that I need to be faster in corner entry, but… little by little.”
How is it to work with this new Petronas Yamaha SRT crew?
“We are a new team but with very experienced professionals in the World Championship, which at the end of the day is the most important thing. The first tests went very well, I felt very comfortable with the whole team. I am looking forward to getting the winter break over with so we can get back to work together.”
What is your plan for the next two months?
“First of all, to rest and spend some days with my family, especially over Christmas. After that I have a tough winter planned, with a very physical training programme, to make sure I am 100% ready in February when preseason starts again at Sepang.”
So the Sepang tests will be a good opportunity to meet the fans in Malaysia…
“Of course, we already saw this year at the Sepang International Circuit how the fans got behind the Malaysian riders during the Grand Prix. We are excited to go back there now and feel their support, to be able to ride in front of them with the new colours on our bikes. It will be a very special occasion for the team.”