1. How was your winter holiday? Where were you and what did you do?
I spent Christmas at home in Texas with my family and then we headed up to Wyoming, where we've got a place in Jackson Hole. The snow was fantastic and we spent about 20 days there, so I managed lots of snowboarding and snowmobiling!
2. Will you be heading back to America between races and tests this year, or will you have a base in Europe, as you have in the past?
I don't think so; the calendar is so different this year that it's going to allow me much time back home. If it weren't for Laguna Seca in the middle of the season, I'd probably have kept the place in Italy that I had last year, but it's not needed now. There are two weekends after Le Mans and before Mugello, so then we'll probably go to stay with some friends in the UK, but apart from that we'll be in the motorhome or back in the US!
3. 2005 is like a Yamaha 'homecoming' for you! How does it feel to be reunited with Yamaha and what's the single best thing about it?
It's great; to be honest I never wanted to leave the first time around! It's been eleven years, but so many things have stayed the same that it really is like coming home. The best thing about it is the fact that Yamaha really wanted me to come back and ride the bike, which makes me feel really good.
4. How are you getting on with your new team? Have you adapted easily to working with a new group of people?
It's been really easy, they're a great bunch of guys. I already knew Davide Brivio from my World Superbike days, and I've got to know the rest of them quickly. It helps that everyone speaks English, and they all seem to understand my way of explaining things!
5. You've already ridden the M1 at two tests last year. What were your first impressions of the bike and what are your favourite things about it?
My first impressions of the M1 were really good, and I got a good feeling with it very quickly. It helps that Valentino and I have quite a similar way of setting the bike up. The best thing about it is that it turns so well. The corner speed is fantastic and it goes exactly where I want it to go!
6. How are you feeling about this first test of the year, are you looking forward to getting back to work?
I'm really excited to be back and starting the season, in fact I'm excited about everything this year! I'm looking forward to seeing the potential of the new bike, stretching the parameters during testing and seeing where we can go.
7. What are the key areas you'd like to work on during this test? Do you have any specific goals?
Not really, I think we'll just see how it goes. We need to test hard and get as many laps done as possible. I'd like to be consistent, too. I guess that the main goal of the test is to get as much work done as possible!
8. You and Valentino have been successful together in the past; do you feel a lot of pressure this year as his team-mate?
A lot of people have been asking me this, but I really haven't looked at in that way. For me it's better; Valentino is the World Champion and he's working on developing the same bike that I'm riding! I think we can work together a lot; we are quite similar and what works for him generally works for me, too. We're working in the same direction and this is essential for a good team.
9. Many of the other teams on the grid are testing here in Sepang. Are you glad to get the chance to compare your performance to the rest of the MotoGP riders at such an early stage in the season?
I think it's good, the more the merrier! It means that we know what we're up against right from the start. However I think at this test the Honda guys will be on their old bikes for this test, whereas we're already focusing on the 2005-spec versions, so perhaps the second test will be a better indication what's going on.
10. What are your expectations for yourself at this early stage of your new partnership with Yamaha? How quickly do you think you can be competitive?
I hope I can be competitive tomorrow! I'm not going to sit and hope that I can be competitive by the fifth or sixth race, I've come here to win and I expect to be doing well right from the start.
11. How do you feel about the increase to 17 races for 2005? Are you looking forward to having the chance to race in front of your home fans in Laguna Seca?
I actually like the new calendar. It's much more similar to the old World Superbike calendar, although with more races, and it allows me to have much more time at home. I'm already excited about Laguna Seca, I'm looking forward to having the chance to race at home again, on a track that I've grown up racing on. The fans are incredible there, there are so many people, so many Americans, I think it's going to be out of control!