Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi faced the hot and especially humid conditions on the first day of the Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix weekend. The riders had to show some patience in the morning, waiting for the track to dry, before getting fully immersed into FP1. In the afternoon, they had to cope with completely different circumstances at a full wet Sepang International Circuit. The teammates ultimately finished 4th and 12th in the combined Friday free practice results.
Viñales bided his time at the Quale start of the morning session, keeping a close eye on the live timing screens to get an understanding of the conditions. Twenty-five minutes into the session, the track had tried sufficiently and he was on his way to clock a time on slick tyres. He set the provisional 14th time on his first try but saved the best for last. He steadily worked his way up to fourth place in the FP1 rankings, with a 2’00.903s lap, 0.232s from the front.
The Spaniard had the opposite tactic in the wet afternoon session. He quickly left the Movistar Yamaha box as the pit lane traffic light turned green, keen on proceeding with the work on the wet setting of his YZR-M1. He was showing a positive pace, but a small collision with Héctor Barberá in turn 15 meant he had to make an unplanned pit stop, with 35 minutes remaining. Lucky to have escaped a crash, he was able to rejoin the action soon, eager to make up for lost time. He wrapped up the session with a 2’12.878s best lap for fourth, 1.238s from the top of the standings. With none of the MotoGP riders improving in the afternoon on the results of their morning stint, he also holds fourth place in the combined FP classification.
With the conditions being uncertain at the start of the morning session, Rossi was one of only five riders to start FP1. However, as he headed out on slicks with half of the circuit still presenting wet stretches, he came back in after his first lap. The Italian sat out some time in the pit box waiting for the tarmac to dry, until there were 20 minutes of the session remaining. Back on track he improved on his time consistently, before shifting his attention to working on the bike’s set-up. He dropped a 2’01.662s best lap to finish the first 45-minute session in 12th place, 0.991s from first.
The wet conditions really suited the Doctor in the FP2 session. He was a man on a mission from the moment he kicked his bike in gear. He soon featured at the top end of the provisional standings and was in a good place to fine-tune the base wet setting – knowing he would not be able to better his morning dry lap time in the wet. The nine-time World Champion ended the afternoon practice session posting a 2’13.071s best time, for sixth position, with a 1.431s margin to the leading rider. Rossi’s faster FP1 time earned him 12th place in the combined practice results.
Position: 4th – Time: 2’00.903 – Laps: 27
“Today I felt good in both the dry and the wet conditions. I think we have good potential here in Malaysia. We still have to work on the set-up of the bike. Sepang is a completely different track to the one in Australia. We have to understand the tyres really well, even if the weather changes so much. We have to understand the tyres to be able to choose the best option for the race. I don’t know exactly what happened with Barberá, I tried to make the corner and saw him go straight. We were lucky we didn’t hit each other, only my clutch lever broke off, but I didn’t see all the action, I just felt it on the bike. I was able to pick up my bike a little bit and didn’t crash. Anyway, I was feeling good in FP2, I’m happy and let’s see tomorrow. I have good confidence that we can do well in both conditions.”
Position: 12th – Time: 2’01.662 – Laps: 28
“It was a difficult day, but this morning we were lucky because we were able to do some kilometres, some laps, on the dry. The conditions weren’t fantastic, because it was a bit humid, but at the end I could push a bit and my feeling was not so bad. In the last minutes a lot of riders put in the soft rear to stay in the top-10, so I’m just 12th, but my pace was quite good. In the afternoon we could work on the wet, because the conditions were good, it was full wet. We improved compared to Motegi, and I’m in sixth position, but I still don’t feel comfortable with the bike because we don’t have enough rear grip. We need to improve if we want to be competitive in wet conditions.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“The start of the Friday was a bit tricky because this morning the track was half dry and half wet. In these circumstances it’s never easy for the riders. Luckily, we were still able to put the last 20 minutes of FP1 to good use, working on the dry bike set-up. In the afternoon we switched to working on the wet base setting. Maverick and Vale are progressing on the wet, which verifies the step we made in Australia and confirms that we are working in the right direction, even if there’s still a margin for improvement. Maverick got clipped by Héctor Barberá but, fortunately, he didn’t crash. He had a good pace and was feeling confident. Though the wet conditions in FP2 didn’t help Valentino better his morning time and he suffered from a lack of rear grip, he showed consistent speed and will be competitive, should it rain in the remainder of the weekend. So far, we’re feeling positive that we will be able to make another step tomorrow in FP3, regardless of the conditions.”