Vinales ‘quick, consistent without pushing at maximum’

Maverick Viñales describes the first day of free practice as “more positive than I expect … “I’m happy the bike works in three completely different tracks.”
Vinales ‘quick, consistent without pushing at maximum’

Maverick Viñales was pleasantly surprised to see how competitive he and his Yamaha M1 were around Sepang as the Catalan placed sixth overall on the MotoGP combined standings on Friday.

The man responsible for ending Yamaha’s 25-race winless run last weekend in Australia admitted Sepang is not one of his stronger tracks. Yet he soon found himself lapping among the fastest names “without pushing at my maximum.”

Both Viñales and team-mate Valentino Rossi were fast, with the elder Italian fourth fastest in the combined standings. All in all, a positive day for Movistar Yamaha at Sepang, the third track in four weekends (after the Chang International Circuit, Phillip Island) where it has been thus.

“[It was] More positive than I expect because last year I struggled so much,” said Viñales. “But already in lap ten I made the lap time. I was just riding the bike without pushing and it was actually really good.

“I’m happy that the bike works in three different tracks, in the warm, hot and completely different tracks. So I’m really pleased we can work by consistency now and also I can improve my riding style.

“We have to wait until tomorrow [to see who is truly competitive]. In FP4 you don’t really know in the racing conditions. But anyway I felt good.

“I feel good because I can be in medium/lows really consistently without pushing at my maximum so I understand very well that the bike is working good so I will not make a lot of changes.

“I will try and improve with my riding style because at this track I always struggle a lot so we need to keep focussing the way in Phillip Island. That would be perfect.

“This race is going to be much more difficult than Phillip Island because finally it’s more stop and go. In certain points I can keep speed and that helps a lot for the exit of the corners.”

Is Viñales’ speed at Sepang related to that first win of the season in Australia, and the confidence that naturally comes with it?

The 23-year old was sceptical. “Well, I think I’m pushing the same. Honestly, finally when the helmet goes on it doesn’t matter the mood. You jut push. But sure, it gives a less stress to work.

“Even now we know this bike works in the race so also it gives you more of a chance to relax, to try more laps, to try more electronic things, than basic set-ups, geometry… So we can concentrate better for the race. That’s important. I was feeling good today.

“For sure we can improve a bit the set up but for sure I can improve a little bit more myself to arrive at the limit. When I find the limit I will start to work a little bit more on the set-up.

“We could ride and go. I didn’t make a great time attack but I’m sure we can go really fast tomorrow.

On Suzuki’s recent resurgence and Alex Rins’ fastest time of the day, Viñales added, “He’s good so it didn’t surprise me. I mean, the Suzuki was in great shape in Phillip Island, Japan, Aragon.

“Both riders are great so it’s normal that both riders are there and towards the top. Anyway, I remember ’16 I was first in FP3. The bike works really great here so, not only Marc and Dovi are going to go fast in the race.

“Also Alex is going to be there. We need to just work and think they are more competitive than when riding in Australia.”