Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi took a tyre gamble in Q2 at a drying Twin Ring Motegi track and secured 12th position. Teammate Maverick Viñales came just short of getting promoted from Q1 and will start tomorrow’s Motul Grand Prix of Japan from 14th place on the grid.
Circuit conditions were uncertain as a dry line started to form at the start of the second 15-minute shoot out. Unharmed after a crash in FP4, Rossi quickly went out on track in Q2 and took a risk, putting on slick tyres. Though he booked consistent improvement on each lap as the tyres started to warm, his gamble didn’t pay off. The Italian returned to the pits in 11th place, with five and a half minutes on the clock.
He soon exited pit lane for another go, this time on wet tyres, but at the end of his out lap there were only one and a half minutes of the session remaining, which meant he would only have one attempt to set a fast time. The Doctor put the hammer down, dropping a 1’57.786s lap, more than 12s quicker than he was on slicks, but he didn’t gain a position and had to settle for 12th place, on the fourth row on the grid.
After finishing outside the top-10 in this morning’s FP3 session, Viñales had to enter Q1 but looked to be a strong contender for advancement to Q2. The Spaniard didn’t linger at the start of the first qualifying heat and immediately set the provisional fastest time on his first flying lap, but dropped back to third place when he visited the pit box to put in an extra soft tyre.
He was sitting in fourth position when he resumed his attack and set a 1’55.916s for second place, but was pushed back two positions in the final stages. Back in fourth place, the Factory Yamaha rider put this head down once more, but was unable to further improve his position in the timesheets. He will start tomorrow’s race from fifth row on the grid, from 14th place.
Position: 12th – Time: 1’57.786 – Laps: 6
“This morning we started well, because with the full wet session, like yesterday, we improved the setting of the bike a lot. I was quite fast and it was good, but unfortunately with less water on the track we suffered a lot. Also for this reason we risked using the slicks, because the track was becoming dryer. We were hoping it would dry quickly, but unfortunately it was still too wet. We have to wait to see what the conditions will be like tomorrow. With more water on track we can be quite strong, with less water we’re struggling. The crash in FP4 was quite big, but I was lucky. No problems, just a little bit with the finger, but the important thing is that the leg is OK.”
Position: 14th – Time: 1’55.916 – Laps: 6
“I had the same problem today as I had all year in the wet: I had a lot of spin and couldn’t ride the bike the way I wanted to in these conditions. We are working hard and giving it everything. The qualifying result is what it is and now we focus on working for tomorrow. We know where we’re losing time, but it’s difficult to fix it in just one weekend. We are going to do our best, we’ll try to improve for tomorrow and score as many points as possible.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today’s results were not what we had hoped for. The changing circumstances on the circuit in Q2 made it difficult to understand what the track conditions would be like. Valentino decided to try the slick tyres, but it turned out that, despite the drying line, it was still a bit too early for slicks. When he opted for a wet tyre for his second stint he just ran out of time to make it work. Though he improved his time significantly on his last lap, he still has to start from 12th place on the grid. Maverick was on the attack in Q1 and set a 1’55.916s on the super soft tyre. It was a shame that he missed out on advancing to Q2 by just 0.072s, because starting from the fifth row is quite challenging. Now we will assemble the data from today’s sessions and prepare some setting tweaks we can test in tomorrow’s warm up.”