The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team were keen to begin their 2018 MotoGP World Championship challenge today. Valentino Rossi’s and Maverick Viñales’ main goal for the first two practice sessions was to set up their YZR-M1s for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar. They secured 9th and 11th place respectively in the combined timesheets.
Rossi showed he meant business as FP1 got underway in the afternoon. Feeling comfortable right from the start, it wasn’t long before he breached into the top-3. He kept up his competitive pace throughout the session and briefly topped the timesheets with a 1’55.723s. He finished in second place, clocking a 1’55.427s, just 0.061s from the top.
The lowering temperatures in the evening made it difficult for the riders to keep their rhythm in the second free practice session, but the Doctor was hungry for improvement. Riding under the floodlights, he put his head down and battled for a top ten position in the ranking order. His best time, a 1’54.853s, earned him ninth place, 0.492s behind today’s leader.
Viñales had a busy afternoon session. When he took to the track it soon became clear that, with small margins separating the riders, he had no time to lose to fine-tune his Yamaha. He completed three runs to test various setting options and increased his speed at the very end. He ended FP1 in 11th position with a 1’56.130s lap, 0.764s from first.
The Spaniard pushed on in FP2 and made the 45 minutes count. He kept up with the pace, breaching into the 1’55s-laps. He steadily improved his time, but the setting he tried in the afternoon didn’t give him the same feeling in the cooler conditions. He ended the session in 11th place, posting a fastest lap of 1’55.195s, 0.834s from the front.
Today’s FP1 and FP2 results see Rossi and Viñales also take 9th and 11th position respectively in the combined results. Tomorrow they will be back on track from 14:35 – 15:20 local track time (GMT+3) for Free Practice 3, followed by Free Practice 4 from 18:40 – 19:10 and the qualifying sessions from 19:20 – 20:00.
Position: 9th – Time: 1’54.853 – Laps: 35
“The feeling during the day was quite positive because I feel good with the bike and also my pace is not so bad with the used tyres, that’s very important for the race. The level of performance is unbelievable, especially from fourth to tenth place – we’re very close. I didn’t ride in a perfect way and I lost some time during my lap, I made some small mistakes and I paid for them, because my position is not fantastic, I’m just ninth. It’s very important to stay in the top-10, because maybe tomorrow in FP3 it can be a little bit more difficult. We have to keep trying because I’m sure somebody will improve, and after that we’ll see. It’s always difficult with the front tyre, because we’re at the limit, so we need to make the right choice and we still have to work on the balance of the bike. I’m very happy to race at 7 o’ clock and not at 9, because the track is better. The only problem is that FP1, FP3 and Warm Up are not very important because you ride them in hotter conditions.”
Position: 11th – Time: 1’55.195 – Laps: 35
“Honestly, I don’t feel like this is my best moment. As I said during the test, we’re having some trouble. I didn’t feel good on the bike, but we are working to solve the problems. We tried something different, which – with the hot temperatures – I was liking quite a lot, but this evening it wasn’t working. I did two time-attacks, but I wasn’t feeling comfortable, so we have to continue tomorrow to find a better set-up.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“It’s great to be back in action, even though it was a bit of a challenging start to the season today. The grip level of the track wasn’t perfect and under these circumstances we usually suffer. We expect that the circuit will provide a better grip session by session, which will help us exploit the strong points of our bike. Most of the problems that we’re facing are caused by a lack of grip. The new schedule is a bit tricky, it has some up and downsides. The format has made FP1, FP3 and the Warm Up session somewhat useless, because the track conditions in the afternoon and evening sessions are quite different, and these aspects need to be carefully considered whilst making set-up changes. Even though we don’t want to completely turn the bike upside down, we have some ideas that we will try tomorrow with both riders.”
Zarco and Syahrin Deliver a Strong Start into the New Season
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 pair kicked off the racing year with some great achievements today at the Losail International Circuit. During the first Free Practice session both, Johann Zarco and Hafizh Syahrin adapted quickly to the hot conditions in Qatar, before the impressive floodlights delivered similar circumstances to the test some days ago in FP2.
Thereby, Zarco displayed a solid performance to finish the first day of action inside the top 10, just 0.059 seconds behind fellow Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi. Meanwhile Syahrin showed his outstanding talent in being the fastest rookie in his first ever MotoGP Free Practice session. The Malaysian concluded Friday 1.542 seconds behind his team mate and is eager to further improve in FP3, which takes place on Saturday at 14:35 local time.
Position: 10th – Time: 1’54.912 – Laps: 33
“For the first day in Qatar it is quite ok to be inside the top 10. I experienced some issues, which made it difficult to find the same great feeling like I had during the test here. I tried to keep calm and work. It’s just small details, because the balance of the bike is good, but to be as fast as the top guys, we need to understand better how the grip level is changing. We’re working on it and I know that we need to improve tomorrow to be competitive and ready for Q2.”
Position: 22nd – Time: 1’56.454 – Laps: 33
“In the first Free Practice, I had a lot of confidence and felt really comfortable on the bike. I’m not sure why my feeling was not as good as in FP1 in the second session. We used the soft tyre for the first time, but couldn’t improve a lot. In the end, we went one tenth of a second faster than in the first session. Now, we try to understand the situation, I know, that I have to stay calm and that I have to try to understand the telemetry, therefore I’ll speak with my guys tonight. Anyway, I’m very positive. For tomorrow, I aim to improve further.”