Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi delivered a masterstroke today during qualifying at the Le Mans – Bugatti Grand Prix race circuit. He gambled on slicks in a damp Q1 session and went on to secure 5th place in Q2. Maverick Viñales had a less fortunate second day at the Grand Prix de France. His initial tyre choice didn’t work for him in the Q2 shoot-out and he qualified in 11th place.
Faced with damp conditions in FP3, Rossi found himself on the entry list for Q1. As the drizzle continued throughout the afternoon, the Italian made the bold decision at the end of FP4 to head out on slicks at the start of Q1 – the only rider to do so. With the track temperature between 15-17?, his first lap put him in 11th place, but it was all part of the plan. His next attempt put him in first place with a 1‘39.074s, and he was only getting faster.
With the tyres up to temperature he dropped a 1‘37.667s, giving him a 1.595s lead over his closest rival, whilst his opponents were in the box to change to slick tyres. His time remained unthreatened for the remainder of the session and saw him through to Q2.
The Doctor stuck to the same strategy in the second 15-minute shoot-out, but this time the gamble didn‘t pay off. He quickly switched to wets and set the provisional eighth fastest time on his first try. He gained another place on his next lap and kept firing in personal best sectors. Despite the rain intensifying, he moved up to fifth with a 1.41.655s, 0.703s from first. His hard work today earns him a place in the middle of the second row.
Viñales had watched his team-mate‘s performance in Q1 and decided to also opt for the slick tyres at the start of Q2. He had let everyone leave pit lane ahead of him in order to have clear space on track, but with the rain becoming heavier, he had to return to the garage immediately to change to wet tyres.
With a little less than eleven minutes to go, he was back out to set his first flyer, that moved him up to ninth position. However, with the pace increasing he was pushed down to tenth place. He improved his time on his fourth lap to 1‘42.555s, but it kept him in eleventh place, 1.603s from first. The Spaniard will start tomorrow‘s race from the fourth row.
Valentino Rossi, 5th – 1’41.655
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team
“I‘m very happy, because this morning I was out of the Q2 and we needed to find something to improve our starting position. We took a gamble in Q1 and put in the slicks, and that was the right choice. It was a risk, but it paid off, because there wasn‘t too much water on track and I was able to get through to Q2, which was very important. Also in Q2, with the wet tyres in the wet, I was quite competitive. I‘m fifth, but I also have a good pace in case we have a wet race tomorrow. In the dry I wasn‘t very strong yesterday. We have to try some setting modifications, but today we didn‘t have time for that, so we have to wait to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow.”
Maverick Viñales, 11th – 1’42.555
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
“The strategy didn‘t quite go to plan. We decided to give the slick tyres a chance at the start of Q2, but it started to rain more. We lost two or three laps at the moment the track was in the best condition to set a fast time. Anyway, I think we are doing well this weekend. We are trying to improve ourselves, and in the wet we improved a lot. In the dry I always felt great, so it‘s a good track for us. It‘s true that I have to start the race from 11th, but we‘re going to do our best to be on the podium. We have confidence, because I understand how to ride the bike and how to be faster. The bike, right now, is on a good level. We still have to improve in some areas, but it‘s coming. Nothing is impossible, so we are going to push tomorrow, give our best, and see what we can achieve. We‘ll try to be strong tomorrow, especially in the first half of the race, because it‘s going to be very important to overtake.”
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“Again, we have mixed emotions in our pit box. Valentino was in a difficult situation this morning, because the FP3 was wet, so he had to go through Q1. The conditions were constantly changing, but it was never fully dry or fully wet, so making the right decision between slicks and wets was really key. The gamble to use slicks at the start of Q1 really paid off for Vale, but when we tried the same strategy in Q2, we were unlucky that it started raining harder again. Vale lost some time, having to come back in for wet tyres, but he still managed to secure a place on the second row, which, considering the situation this morning, is a positive outcome. The heavier rain in Q2 was also disappointing for Maverick, who, like Vale, attempted to start his first run on slicks. Mack has been fast all weekend, but his Q2 strategy didn’t work out for him, which is a shame, because P11 doesn‘t reflect his level of competitiveness. He will have to start the race from the fourth row, which is a big challenge, but his race pace is quite strong, so we know he can fight his way up the order. Tonight, we will gather the data for the wet and prepare some setting updates, but it depends on the weather whether we will be able to test them in tomorrow’s Warm Up. Either way, we keep our fingers crossed for either a completely wet or a completely dry race.”