Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi used the first free practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg track to the fullest to prepare for an intense weekend. They both showed great form in the morning, but in the hotter afternoon only Viñales was able to successfully defend his provisional place for Q2. The team-mates finished 2nd and 11th respectively in FP2 and combined free practice rankings.
Viñales felt motivated by a positive test in Brno last Monday and it showed in this morning’s FP1. He was quick to ride his YZR-M1 to a place in the top 3 and kept hold of the position for the first half of the 45-minute session. As the pace heated up towards the final stages, the Spaniard responded. Eager to keep his spot at the front, he set two personal best times on his final run and ended in third place, with a best time of 1‘24.280s and a 0.247s gap to first.
The number-12 rider raised his game even further in the afternoon. He took a little time to adjust to the hot temperatures and then again set a fast lap to feature at the front. He tried various tyre specs until the usual mini time attack at the very end of the session. With five minutes to go, Viñales started his last run and delivered, wrapping up the first day in Spielberg with a best time of 1‘23.982s for second place in the FP2 and combined free practice timesheets, just 0.066s from P1.
Rossi built gradual progress in the morning session, moving to sixth place after 16 minutes. Knowing the importance of braking stability and acceleration, he concentrated on getting his bike set-up just right, until the very end of FP1. Keen to show the progress he made, he put his head down on his final run to take fifth position in the results, with a 1‘24.469s best lap, 0.436s from first.
In the afternoon, the Doctor picked up work where he left off in the morning. He mainly focused on his bike‘s set-up and tyre selection until the final ten minutes when all riders made a dash to secure a provisional Q2 position. He put in some solid laps on his last stint but found himself just outside the top 10, in 11th place, with a best time of 1‘24.532s, 0.616s from first. His faster morning time also put him in P11 in the combined standings, 0.553s from the top.
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“The feeling has been quite positive. We‘ve been working a lot on the bike, trying to understand in which direction we should go. I think we might have found something good to better my rhythm, but we still have to improve. We just missed out on first place, but I‘m feeling positive. Being second in FP2 here is really good for us, this is a track where we suffer a lot. This year it seems to be going better, so we are in a good way and will try to keep improving things tomorrow. We‘re going to try to be on the first row and then we‘ll see. Today we tried the tyres and we have more or less some ideas for tomorrow, so we‘re going to be working very hard.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“This morning was not so bad and also this afternoon the pace was quite good, but at the end, with the soft, I didn’t ride very well. I was stuck in the traffic and I wasn’t able to improve. As always, there are a lot of riders that are very fast, but it looks like we are more competitive compared to last year, because our pace is a bit better. I’m not in the top 10 by a small margin. Apart from that, the feeling is not so bad and it looks like the forecast is good for tomorrow morning, so I think we will fight for Q2 in FP3.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“We started the Austrian GP weekend well this morning. We are in a better place than we were last year at this round. Having learned from that experience, we knew what we had to focus on. Maverick‘s second place today is really a good result for us because, like we have pointed out before, this is not considered a ’Yamaha-track‘. It‘s a shame that, after a positive FP1, Vale was unable to better his morning time in the afternoon and just missed out on a top 10 result. Getting into Q2 is always crucial, so that‘s the goal for both riders. We will have to keep pushing, but we‘ve seen some positive signs on this first day, so our motivation is high. We’ve been able to test all the tyre options and have a good indication for Sunday’s race choice.”