Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales showed a strong race pace today at the Gran Premio de la República Argentina and took fifth place in the final results. Valentino Rossi was shadowing his teammate for most of the race but saw his crucial championship points go up in smoke when he crashed, due to an incident involving Marc Marquez. The Italian was able to re-join the action and finished in 19th place.
The tension was palpable during the starting procedure. Spots of rain fell on the Termas de Río Hondo Circuit just 15 minutes before the start of the race, causing chaos on the grid. Though the race was declared wet, a dry line formed rapidly, which resulted in all riders but pole man Jack Miller heading back to pit lane to switch to slicks, leading to a delayed start due to safety conditions.
At 15:15 local track time (GMT-3), the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders headed back out for a quick re-start procedure. Apart from pole-sitter Miller, who was already on slicks during the first starting procedure, the entire rider field was moved to the back of the grid by Race Direction (maintaining the qualifying order), leaving a four-row gap. Despite new spots of rain the teammates opted to begin the race, which was shortened from 25 to 24 laps, on slick tyres.
Once the field got underway, Viñales slotted into 12th place in the first corner. He needed some time to get a feel for the conditions and he dropped back a place, but soon muscled his way through the pack, taking teammate Rossi with him. With 10 laps to go, he overtook Andrea Dovizioso for fifth place and then focused on decreasing an over 13s-gap to the front group.
With a clear track in front of him, the Spaniard put his head down. He was mainly riding in the high 1’40s, but was unable to get closer. The 23-year-old had to let Marc Marquez pass in the last sector of the final lap and crossed the line in sixth place, 14.941s from first. However, due to Race Direction giving Marquez a 30s-penalty after the chequered flag for his race incident with Rossi, Viñales regained fifth position.
Rossi was quick to work his way up to eighth in the rankings. He aimed to close a 2s-gap to the group of riders in front of him, but got into a scrap with Andrea Iannone and had to delay his charge.
The Doctor was soon joined by Viñales, who he followed past Iannone and Hafizh Syahrin to eighth place. Together the teammates rode their bikes to the front of the second group and attempted to reel in the leading pack of four. Rossi was in sixth place, trying to stick to the rear of the number-25 YZR-M1, but the nine-time World Champion’s efforts were disrupted when Marquez collided with him in turn 13 on lap 20, causing the Italian to go wide and crash on the slippery wet grass. Rossi was able to re-join the race, but came no further than a 19th place finish, 52.082s from the front.
Today’s race results see Viñales climb up to fourth place in the championship standings, with 21 points. Rossi dropped back to eighth place, holding a 16-point total. Yamaha remains in third place in the Constructor Championship with 36 points, while Movistar Yamaha MotoGP is now in joint second position in the Team Championship, together with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team, having scored 37 points each.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action in two weeks’ time at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, in the United States.
Position: 5th – Championship: 4th – Points: 21
“I think today’s race was very important to understand many things. I think that for sure now we can only further improve. I saw many things we can improve in the rain and also in the dry, so I’m feeling quite happy and positive about that. I’m not happy about the result, I wanted to try to win. At the end of the race I had the pace to be at the front, but anyway, I saw many things that will be useful and for sure we are going to improve a lot. Especially in the rain we have to focus in another direction. Now we’re on the safe side with the tyres, we have to try and be more aggressive.”
Position: 19th – Championship: 8th – Points: 16
“I’m OK, but this is a very bad situation. If you take what happened this weekend as an example, one incident can happen to anybody, you can make a mistake in braking, you can touch the other guy. It can happen, it’s racing. But from Friday morning on, Marquez did this to Viñales, to Dovizioso, to me, and on Saturday morning, and today he went straight through four riders. If you start to race like this, you raise the level to a very dangerous point. If all the riders race like this, this will become a very dangerous sport and it will finish in a bad way. It’s a very dangerous situation and I hope that what I said to Race Director Mike Webb makes them take more responsibility, they have to do something. I’m scared on the track when I’m with Marquez. I was scared today when I saw his name on the board. I’m not Race Direction – they will decide – but like this he is destroying our sport, because when you do 300 km an hour on the track, you have to have respect for your rivals.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“It was a dramatic day, in the sense that a lot of things happened that were beyond the team’s and our riders’ control, but they played a crucial role in the outcome of today’s race. The re-organised starting grid was something never seen in Grand Prix racing before. Despite the confusion and the chaos of the re-start, Maverick and Valentino both kept their focus. Valentino was riding in sixth place, behind Maverick when his race was compromised by Marquez. Whilst we respect Race Direction’s decision to impose a 30s-penalty on Marquez, we feel his dangerous riding style should be further discouraged for safety reasons and for the sake of the sport. Maverick moved back up to fifth place in the race results, but a lot of damage has been done, considering that Valentino misses out on quite a chunk of championship points. It’s a disappointing end to the race weekend for him, but the entire team will pull together to make up for today’s loss at the next GP in Austin, where we hope to see fair racing only.”