In part two of Motorsport.com's exclusive interview with Casey Stoner, the two-time MotoGP champion explains why he feels the level at the top of the championship hasn't advanced much since his heyday.
How do you see the ups and downs that Yamaha had last year?
"It is very difficult to understand. Coming from the outside, it is impossible to say. Maverick [Vinales] started with a lot of confidence at the beginning of the year after being comfortable in the pre-season.
"But it is very easy to lose that confidence and your direction when you have a couple of crashes. He is still young and he still doesn't have a lot of experience in MotoGP.
"They can make excuses for the bike, but I think it wasn't so different throughout the season and when the Tech 3 riders used the same frame, they didn't find the same problems."
Then you think it was a matter of the riders...
"In my opinion, yes. There are always pros and cons to everything, but to go from being impressively competitive and the best, and then struggle to finish in the top 10... It is a little more than just the package, for me."
When you started in MotoGP, the impression was that you made everyone up their game. Do you think Marquez is doing the same?
"Yes, I do. But at the same time it's difficult to tell. Everybody has been saying for many years that the level is continuing to rise, but for me, to be able to come back after four years of retirement and do a similar lap time to the best riders… It means I don't see that rise.
"I think the trends have changed: where to focus the line, where to focus the riding or the character. I was racing [Andrea] Dovizioso, Jorge [Lorenzo] and [Dani] Pedrosa and they are still winning races and fighting for the title.
"It is always a matter of changing: riding style, bikes, electronics, riding style..."
What about the risks the riders have to take if they want to battle Marquez?
"I'm still able to run the same lap times with a lot less risk, so I think there is a way to be fast without risking too much. As I say, there are riders able to win without pushing like Marquez.
"Marc has his own style and is incredible. The way he can feel when he is about to lose the front, and then save it, is something I've never seen in this championship. Without a doubt, this is his strength.
"Everybody have strengths, or the bikes have them. There are pros and cons to everything. Risking hard is a very good thing, but if you can find the way to do the same with less risk, it's much better."
Do you feel comfortable with your current life? How long will you keep doing this?
"I will keep doing this until the bikes become no fun to ride, which I can see in the future will be like this. But as long as I can still enjoy riding, I enjoy the different aspect of working a little bit closer to the engineers.
"I am always pushing and fighting, because for me, when I’m in this position, Jorge and Dovi are my riders so I have to do everything to help them be more competitive.
"The more success they have, the prouder I feel because I’ve helped them achieve that. When I was racing, I always appreciated the test rider we had and I know how hard they had to work."
How is it working for others when you’ve been world champion twice?
"It has nothing to do with me anymore. Let’s talk again about finding the setting, for example. We do the first exit, we find the balance, and if it's right, we keep the same setting throughout the whole test.
"We change maybe the height of the bike, but we do it to understand what the differences are. But in reality, we don’t change any settings.
"Since I retired, I didn’t touch any settings on a bike just to be fast. I just found the balance of the bike and then we do everything to do comparisons."
You retired when you were 27 years old and now you are 32. Are you surprised by the fact that Rossi is still racing at the age of 38?
"Not really. Everybody is different. You had Mick Doohan, who started to win titles very late in his career, and then he kept winning them with mid-30s.
"You see the people doing Ironman events, some of the fittest people of the world, they are generally between 35 and 40 when they are in their best shape. To say there is an age group where you need to be, is a stupid thing.
"If Valentino still loves to race and is competitive, there’s no reason to retire. He is still one of the best options to have in a factory team and what he brings to the championship is huge."
Translation by Irene Aneas