Questions & Answers with Marco Melandri after Yamaha Factory test in Valencia (December '02).

Q: How do you feel having ridden the YZR-M1 for the first time at these tests in Valencia and Jerez? What is your first impression of the bike?

A: The night before I rode the bike for the first time in Valencia I was so excited I didn't sleep at all! The first lap with the M1 was really strange - I could not believe a bike could go so fast. And the thing that I noticed most was the power. It felt hard to control at first but after a few laps it got easier and easier. At this stage I feel like I need maybe eight days more of testing until I can control the bike properly. I am pleased and surprised with my best lap time from this test - 1m 34.83s.

Q: From your first impressions, how does the four-stroke differ from the 250cc you have ridden until now?

A: I thought the engine braking would be stronger on the four-stroke but in fact it feels more similar to the 250. The biggest difference between the two is in the power delivery. With the four-stroke, the straight does not seem long enough! The M1 feels very light and more manoeuvrable than the 250. I would say that I felt a greater general difference when I changed from a 125cc bike to a 250cc, than I have done from the 250cc to the four-stroke MotoGP bike.

Q: How does it feel to be working with a completely new team?

A: I am really happy because the team is great, everyone wants to help me as much as they can. No-one has compared me to Biaggi so far! They have told me that I should keep my head down, learn as much as I can and enjoy myself. I am very lucky to have Fiorenzo Fanali as my crew chief, he has worked with so many great riders in the past including heroes of mine like Agostini and Lawson. I am trying to improve my English and I now need to speak it to the Japanese Yamaha engineers, even though most of my crew are Italian.

Q: How is it to have Carlos Checa as your new team-mate?

A: I am also very happy to work with Carlos - I think he's a really good guy. I can learn a lot from him, and sometimes I can see from his times and lap data where I should be improving.

Q: What are your hopes for next season?

A: I've only had three days of testing, and the weather conditions at Jerez were very difficult so I couldn't test much. But I can feel myself getting better each day with the bike, and we have many tests before the first Grand Prix in April. The Barcelona test in March, the last test before we start racing, is where I will see my true potential for the first race.