The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team faced an eventful second day at the Phillip Island circuit, with changing conditions throughout and Valentino Rossi having to take part in Q1, but they confronted the challenge head-on. Maverick Viñales showed great form in Q2, securing second place on the front row. Rossi successfully promoted to Q2 and took seventh place on the grid for tomorrow’s Michelin Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Viñales was quick out of the gates at the start of the 15-minute Q2 heat. His first flying lap of 1’30.116 saw him very briefly hold eighth place, but he was just getting started. His third attempt saw him climb up to sixth, behind his teammate, but there was yet more in store for him. He headed back to the pit lane for a tyre change with less than seven minutes of the session remaining.
Two minutes later the Spaniard was back out on track and showed he meant business, immediately dropping a 1’29.146s lap to swap places with teammate Rossi, for fifth place. He kept piling on the pressure on his next lap and briefly secured pole with a 1’28.719s, before being pushed back to second place, by 0.333s. Thanks to this strong performance, he will start tomorrow’s race from the first row of the grid.
Rossi had to negotiate his way through Q1 and made it look easy. He was one of the last riders to leave the box to be ensured of some clear track as he fought for a place in Q2. His first flying lap put him in fifth place, but it soon turned out that this was only a dress rehearsal for the 1’29.665s he posted on his next try, which secured him provisional first place.
Unable to improve on his next attempt, he ended his first run with six and a half minutes remaining. A minute and a half later he checked out of pit lane again to defend his number one spot. With the pace heating up in the final minutes, the Doctor responded by flashing red-helmet times in all sectors and clocking a 1’29.346s on his last lap to maintain the top position with a 0.359s margin, allowing him to successfully promote to Q2.
The Italian continued where he left off when he started the second qualifying session. He exited the pits as the last rider, hoping to find some clear track again for his qualifying efforts. His second flying lap of 1’29.260s was enough to put him in fifth position, 0.376s from provisional pole. He made a quick pit stop with eight minutes remaining, before continuing his strong qualifying challenge.
The nine-time World Champion was back out with five minutes left on the clock. He was on the attack once more, but he was unable to better his time on his next lap. He continued pushing and set a 1’29.203s, improving his time, but he dropped back to sixth place. Not able to make further strides on his last lap he was pushed back to seventh, with a 0.817s margin to first. He will start in tomorrow’s race from the third row of the grid.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’28.719 – Laps: 9
“Honestly, this was a better result than I expected. Especially in FP4 I didn’t feel so good on the bike. I didn’t feel as great as I did in the winter tests, because the tyres are different, especially the front. During qualifying, in the second run, I felt good and felt I could push, so I’m happy about that. We have been struggling a little bit this weekend, but I think we found a way now and we will try to give our best tomorrow. For sure we will be hoping for dry conditions, but we are finding ways of improvement in the wet, so I’m happy that today’s practice sessions helped us learn a lot. Tomorrow I’m going to ride my own race. For sure I will push and apply pressure to my main rivals if I can, and do my best.”
Position: 7th – Time:1’29.203 – Laps: 8
“Unfortunately I’m not fast like last year. It was already quite good to recover some positions coming through Q1, which is always dangerous. I’m seventh, which is not fantastic, because I was able to ride a quite good lap time very early, but after that I was too much on the limit at the corner entry. I wasn’t able to improve on the last lap to start tomorrow’s race from a top-5 position. We have to work, also because the setting is not fantastic. We have to try to modify something and after that the weather will be very important. We hope that the weather tomorrow at four o’clock will be like today and that we can race with the slicks. We will see.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Following a wet morning practice, that gave us good information in case we have a wet race tomorrow, we worked hard over the course of FP4 to find further setting tweaks. We’ve tried several settings and different tyre options and made a significant step forward before qualifying. Maverick and Vale both gave their 100% as usual. Maverick rode a very strong second run in Q2 and set a 1’28.719s. That lap earned him second place on the grid, only losing out on securing pole position in the final stages. Vale did exactly what was needed in Q1 and promoted to Q2 without any difficulties. He was quickly on the pace again, but had some issues on the corner entry at the end of the second qualifying session that kept him from securing a position on the first two rows, so he will start from seventh place. The team will continue to work this evening to find further setting variations to offer the riders for warm up tomorrow morning in preparation for the race. There are going to be different key elements that will play a big role in tomorrow’s GP, including the weather and the tyre choice. We will have to be ready for all possible circumstances.”