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There’s no hiding from the fact it has been a challenging start to the 2019 MotoGP™ World Championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales. But, you get the sense a corner has been turned after battling to his first podium of the year, a result he described as feeling “like a victory”, at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España.
Back on the box for the first time since October of last year at the Australian Grand Prix, Viñales appears to have put the start woes that blighted his opening three rounds of the season behind him. He believes this transformation is down to a combination of work from the factory Yamaha squad, but also slight tweaks to his own start routine.
“I’m so happy about the start because the first objective was to get a good start,” said the 24-year-old after a first top three finish at Jerez since 2013. “I’m really pleased about this podium. It’s a track I’ve really struggled at over the years and to be on the podium feels like a victory to me. We recovered a lot of confidence, especially with the front tyre, so it was really important.”
“I’m doing something different on the bike that gives me more consistency on the start so I can be more precise. And then, they help me a lot with the bike too. It’s very important that we weren’t that far away from Alex [Rins] and Marc [Marquez] at the end. So, we need to keep working and keep thinking as the most important thing is to be on the podium constantly.”
The factory Yamaha rider was forced to work hard for his result though, with the Mission Winnow Ducati duo of Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci putting the Spaniard under heaps of pressure during the closing stages. So much so, that Viñales was forced into his setting his best lap of the race on the final lap.
After the Flag: the Championship ignited
Unsurprsingly, he admits it wasn’t pleasant viewing when he saw two red dragons breathing down his neck: “It was really hard because I saw Dovi and Petrux, they were together, and I thought 'woah'. I knew Dovi was going to push because I think he wanted to finish in front of Petrux, so it was going to be difficult. I just tried to make my best laps, my best sectors. Honestly, it was so difficult because I had just a little bit of tyre left. I don’t know if I could’ve done anymore laps like my last one.”
However, despite his Spanish success, work will continue during today’s test at the Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto, with the number 12 saying he "will be the first to start and the last to finish", after highlighting areas he still feels the M1 is lacking in comparison to their closest competitors.
“There’s no time to relax. Honestly, we’re still a few steps behind our competitors so we need to keep working. I felt quite happy because I think the team made some good steps throughout the weekend, but we will focus a lot on the traction area because for my type of riding style that is the most important part. And also, we’re going to try find a little more turning because today I struggled a little bit with that.
“For sure we won’t be testing electronics because I think in that area we are now quite on the pace. I think we have to work on the engine braking, because I’m really sensitive on that, and then on the traction by mechanical grip. There is a lot of work to do.”
Next up is Le Mans and, whilst you could possibly call Jerez a bogey track given past results at the track for Top Gun, the French circuit is the polar opposite with Viñales enjoying one of his five premier class victories there back in 2017 - a memorable duel with teammate Valentino Rossi.
“Le Mans is a track I really like, I’ve always had the best results of my career there, so it’s a nice track to go back to. I really enjoy being there, but I just wish the weather will help us.”
In 15 mins: Spanish Grand Prix MotoGP™ highlights
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