Movistar Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Viñales secured a front row start today during a mixed Q2 session at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, taking second place on the grid for tomorrow’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The worsening rainy conditions in sector 4 compromised teammate Valentino Rossi’s qualifying efforts. He secured seventh position on the third row of the grid.
Just before Q2, Viñales and Rossi underlined how comfortable they were feeling on their YZR-M1s in FP4, taking second and third place respectively. However, a bit of drama occurred right before the start of the 15-minute shoot-out. Spots of rain meant the track conditions would be considerably different to any of the previous free practice sessions.
Nevertheless, Viñales was feeling confident that he would be able to put in a hot lap and left the pits a little after the first few riders, to ensure a free track for his first stint. His second flying lap of 1’29.824s left him in provisional third place, before he came into the pits with more than eight minutes to go.
The Spaniard leapt onto his other bike and immediately made his way back out on the track, eager to show his pace. The early stop proved to be a master stroke: he managed to clock a 1’29.509s, moving him up from fourth to second place just before the rain became heavier. The number-25 rider had three more goes left as the conditions worsened and even set a fastest first sector on his final try, but he wasn’t able to better his time. He finished the session in second position, 0.310s from pole.
Rossi felt confident on his bike in the earlier free practice sessions, but he didn’t have the qualifying session he had hoped for. At the beginning he took some time to warm his tyres after he had left pit lane, allowing the majority of the pack to start their hot laps ahead of him. On his third flying lap the Italian put in a 1’30.270s to slot into sixth place before he returned to the pits for fresh tyres.
The Doctor had a quick stop and with more than five minutes on the clock hit the track again. However, just when the nine-time World Champion wanted to put his head down to up the pressure on his rivals, the rain intensified. Unable to better his time, he finished the session in seventh place, 1.071s from first.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’29.509 – Laps: 9
“Today’s qualifying was good. I expected a little bit more, but when I arrived at sector 4 it was raining there, so I couldn’t finish my lap like I normally would. I’m actually pretty happy about how the bike was working. I’m in second place, so I’m really satisfied with the bike’s performance, and the team is working well. We’re not changing anything on the set-up; we’re just riding and riding, getting in a lot of laps to get used to the bike. I’m happy, because after Japan we made an improvement here, and I’m able to be more consistent, especially in all the fast corners. I really don’t know what to expect for tomorrow’s race though. I want to be the rider that pulls away a little, but I will just try to do my best. I think we have good potential, so I just need to take a bit of a risk and stay in the 1’29s, and it also depends on the tyre performance.”
Position: 7th – Time: 1’30.270 – Laps: 9
“These were difficult conditions, because when it rains just a little bit and you are with slicks on the track, you have to be very brave. At this track you go very fast and you never know how much water is on the ground. It’s a shame, because I think under normal conditions today, we could start tomorrow’s race from a slightly better position, as in FP3 and FP4 I was quite strong. Anyway, starting from the third row, I will try my hardest. Today I improved the feeling with the bike and my pace, but we have to wait for tomorrow, especially for the tyre choice. We hope to have sun and good weather for the race.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“It was a very strong second day at Phillip Island from Maverick and he fully deserves this front row start. He’s had an impressive pace in every session so far and set some really great lap times during Q2, especially when you consider that the spots of rain made the track treacherous. It’s unfortunate that the rain got worse towards the end of Q2, just when Valentino was about to start his second run, because his pace in the FP4 session shows he also could have been a contender for the front row. However, the main thing for tomorrow is that both riders are satisfied with their bikes. Now it just comes down to making the right tyre decision for the race, and we’ll see what the weather brings to the table. I really hope it won’t influence the outcome of the race.”