All eyes were on the skies at the Sepang International Circuit today as Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales lined up their bikes on the grid minutes before the start of a drama-filled Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. After a dry warm up session, the wet conditions for the race made tyre choice crucial. The teammates pushed hard in the wet, whilst being careful not to get caught out by the slippery conditions. They secured seventh and ninth place respectively.
Thick clouds looked threatening, as the Doctor started the 20-lap race from fourth on the grid. Uncertain about how hard he could brake going into the first corner, he lost some positions and completed the first lap in 11th place, but it was just the start. Rossi used his experience to turn his fortunes around, steadily improving his pace and picking up places as more and more riders fell victim to the wet conditions.
He reached eighth place on lap 6. Trying to stay in contention for a good result, he was pushing to close the gap to seventh, but his attention was demanded elsewhere as Danilo Petrucci overtook him three laps later. The nine-time World Champion didn’t give up the fight and used his compatriot as a tow towards Pol Espargaró in seventh place.
As the track dried and the tyre degradation started to take its toll on his rivals, the Italian overtook Espargaró for eighth place with eight laps to go. It was a signal for Rossi to set a series of personal best sectors, showing his eagerness to join the fight at the front. One lap later he overtook Scott Redding, which motivated him even further. Though he came close, within 0.4s over the finish line, he was unable to close the gap Petrucci. He took the chequered flag in seventh place, 30.769s from the front.
Viñales had a good start from fifth place, but with the conditions having changed so drastically from those in the warm up, he didn’t risk going hell for leather on the first lap. Rather, the youngster waited for the tyres to warm up and come to him. He fell back to 16th place in the first three laps of the race, before he was able to up his pace noticeably.
Several riders saw their race end early because of the treacherous conditions, but the Spaniard was determined to keep his head down. He continued to give his all and had climbed back up to 13th midway through the race.
Encouraged by the progress, the Yamaha rider spurred on his YZR-M1. At this point he was riding consistently in the 2’15s and began to make further strides. He picked up various places, ultimately taking over ninth position, two laps before the end of the race, which he held over the finish line, 38.053s from the front.
Rossi’s nine-point score increases his total to 197 points, as he holds fourth in the championship standings, 29 points behind Viñales in third place. Yamaha have dropped to third in the Constructor rankings with a 31-point margin. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team are still second in the Team classification, 44 points from the top.
After three full-on consecutive MotoGP weekends, the team members look forward to returning to Europe to enjoy a short rest before the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the final race of the 2017 season, in two weeks’ time.
Position: 7th – Championship: 4th – Points: 197
“We were a little bit unlucky with the weather because I think that on the dry we could have been competitive. We wanted to do a good race because we arrived here fresh from a podium on Phillip Island and it’s good to try to stay at the top, but it rained. Unfortunately, today we also weren’t strong enough with this bike on the wet. We had a lot of problems and I was struggling for more or less three quarters of the race. We need to understand the situation and try to improve and that’s just the way it is. We’ll see what happens in Valencia. It’s another important race and a difficult track, but we’ll see. We’ll try to be competitive.”
Position: 9th – Championship: 3rd – Points: 226
“I thought we made a big step in Phillip Island in the wet, and actually I felt really good during FP2. We were third in the results and every lap I did I felt in a good rhythm. In the race it was a totally different feeling, I was losing the rear in the corners and couldn’t lean, so it was very difficult to get a good rhythm and confidence. Anyway, I have to keep FP2 and the warm up on Phillip Island in mind and don’t think about today’s race too much, because we had some issues today, but we were fast in some other sessions. I think Valencia is a good track. Actually, in the warm up we found a setting that gives me a lot of confidence. I’m quite happy about that, also because I know we have a good opportunity in Valencia, as it’s a track I really like and where I always have been fast. We’ll see what happens and try to complete the race there in the best way possible.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“We knew from the start that the weather was going to be a major factor in how today’s race was going to play out. We had wet track time in FP2 this weekend and the feeling was quite positive, especially for Maverick, but today the situation was different and we have to understand the reason. The riders couldn’t warm up the rear tyre until midway through the race and this cost them a lot of positions. When the feeling with the tyre got better, the lap times improved considerably, but unfortunately it was too late. We have to understand how the conditions of the track were different compared to Friday, because the bikes had quite similar settings today to the ones used in FP2. We’ll put this weekend behind us and after a week off we’ll focus on the final GP in Valencia in two weeks’ time. Our challenge in the Constructor Championship has come to an end and the Team Title also will be very difficult to achieve, but we’re still aiming to make a strong comeback, to end the season on a high note.”