That ride swap: Yamaha and the eager Hamilton

Date published: May 3 2020

Yamaha had to stop the eager Lewis Hamilton from going on-track too early in ride swap.

Yamaha MotoGP team director Massimo Meregalli has revealed they had to keep a lid on the eager Lewis Hamilton during the ride swap.

Back in December Monster Energy – a main sponsor for Lewis Hamilton and Yamaha – organised an event in Valencia which saw Hamilton and seven-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi swap equipment.

Rossi got a chance to drive the Mercedes W08 which took Hamilton to the F1 title in 2017, while the Briton was able to ride a MotoGP bike for the first time.

And Hamilton was so eager to get going that Yamaha had to “stop” him from heading out onto the circuit when the track temperature was far too low.

“Well, it was a nice day,” Meregalli told Motorsport.com.

“They thought it was just a promotional opportunity, but it wasn’t like that. Vale was put in the position to do some good practice shifts at the wheel of the Mercedes.

“He [Hamilton] showed up to the circuit very early and we had to stop him because he wanted to get on the bike at 9am, but it was cold.

“Then we had to change all the programme, because Vale arrived a little late and they wanted Lewis to get on the track as soon as possible, but we told him that in Valencia in December before 11am was not possible.

“Having lost those two hours, then he tried to run as much as possible.”

Hamilton had taken to the track on a racing bike before – in early 2019 he rode a Yamaha R1 at Jerez. On that occasion he had a small crash and apparently had another during the MotoGP bike experience, but Meregalli said his performance “didn’t hurt him”.

“He had ridden a motorcycle only eight times before getting on a MotoGP bike, so in my opinion what he did didn’t hurt him,” he said.

“Then it is clear that we tried to put [the bike] in the best conditions, with a wet [engine] map and with tyres that were not the ones we normally use, also because we could not use them by regulation.

“It was windy, it was cold, so the conditions were not ideal, but he stopped only when we showed him the chequered flag.”

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