Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi enjoyed sunny conditions at the Phillip Island circuit today during the first free practice sessions of this weekend’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The teammates worked diligently on their bikes’ settings and secured fifth and twelfth place respectively.
Fully committed to his goal to decrease the 30-point gap to the rider in second place in the championship standings, Viñales hit the ground running in the morning session. Despite a stiff breeze, he was soon on the pace and climbed up to second place before shifting his attention to his bike’s set-up. The Spaniard ended the FP1 session in fifth place, with a 1’29.781s fastest lap and a 0.179s margin to first.
He continued his form in the dry afternoon session and it only took him a few laps to shoot up to second again in the provisional rankings. He planned on spending what was left of the 45-minute session testing various setting options, but had to slightly amend this strategy after a crash in turn 8, with 20 minutes to go. He was quickly up on his feet again and hurried to the box to rejoin the fray before the times started to drop in the final 15 minutes of the session. Back on the bike, Viñales put his head down, but was unable to improve on his time. His best result, a 1’29.423s on lap 7, kept him in fifth place in the FP2 and combined free practice timesheets, 0.198s from the front.
Keen on making the most of the dry session time on day one on Phillip Island, teammate Rossi also made a positive start to the Australian GP. Though riding with pain in his right shoulder, resulting from last week’s crash, he steadily upped his pace at the start of FP1. He briefly moved up inside the top-10, before he concerned himself with the set-up of his Yamaha. He set a 1’30.553s best lap as the session progressed and finished in 13th place, 0.951s from first.
The Doctor booked solid progress in the afternoon, quickly positioning his YZR-M1 inside the top-5. While he resumed his work, further fine-tuning the balance of his bike, the pace of the field increased. The Italian responded at the end of the session by dipping under the 1’30 mark with a 1’29.977s. He bettered his morning time by more than half a second, but it wasn’t enough for him to secure a position inside the top-10 and he ended the first day in twelfth place in the FP2 and combined results, with a 0.752s-margin to the front-runner.
Position: 5th – Time: 1’29.423 – Laps: 41
“The day overall has been really good, honestly. Before the crash I was already coming up with red-helmet times in many sectors, but I was trying so hard I pushed the bike over the limit. We still have to improve, but the crash was, for sure, my mistake. I pushed in the outlap when the tyres were cold. I tried to do my best. Anyway, after the crash, I didn’t feel as good as before, but I was booking many 1’29s and was on the pace so that means we have a good base set-up and now we have to improve, especially in sector 4. The track is different from what it was like during the pre-season test, but it’s not bad. It’s cooler, but the track still provides good grip so that’s good for us. Tomorrow we’re going to try to improve even more, but I’m quite happy how the bike was working here today.”
Position: 12th – Time: 1’29.977 – Laps: 44
“The position, unfortunately, was quite bad. It was important to try and stay inside the top-10 today, because here on Phillip Island you never know what will happen tomorrow with the weather, but apart from that we worked a lot and the feeling with the bike is not bad. I tried another modification at the end with the softer tyre, which has better potential, but unfortunately I didn’t like it a lot, especially in the fast corners, so for this reason I wasn’t able to improve enough to stay inside the top-10. We have a lot to do, also the tyre choice front and rear is still open, so I hope for good conditions tomorrow.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“It was a completely different first day compared to last weekend, everything changed back to normal. The final results didn’t fully reflect our true potential. It was a pity that Maverick crashed halfway through FP2, because I’m quite sure that his placement could have been different. He showed good pace and confidence since FP1 and we think we still have room for improvement, even if in general he’s already quite satisfied about the behaviour of the bike. Despite pain in his right shoulder, Valentino has been able to do two good practice sessions. It was unfortunate that they used the softer option with a setting that wasn’t quite to Vale’s liking, which prohibited him from exploiting the full potential of the tyre. We aim to continue today’s comfortable groove tomorrow.”