The crowds had the Autrodromo del Mugello covered in yellow smoke even before the start of the Gran Premio d’Italia Oakley, and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi gave them various reasons to keep celebrating all the way until the end of the day. Not only did the 39-year-old come out on top in a five-rider battle for third, he also claimed second place in the championship standings. Maverick Viñales struggled to match the pace at the start of the race but rode a strong second half to secure eighth position.
Rossi had a good start from pole and took second place after the first corners, behind Jorge Lorenzo. Shadowed by Marc Marquez, the front men tried to make a break for it. Marquez overtook the local hero on lap 3 but crashed out two laps later. This allowed the Doctor to resume his charge towards the race leader, but it wasn’t without interruptions.
As the Italian went wide with 16 laps to go, compatriots Andrea Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone passed through and also Danilo Petrucci and Alex Rins joined the fight. The number 46 rider soon found himself in fifth place, but he wasn’t out for the count. He regained his position ahead of Iannone and tried to claw his way back past Petrucci, whilst fending off Rins. Though he had to allow the Spaniard through with nine laps to go, he cleverly followed the young rider and seized two overtake opportunities on lap 17 and 18 to snatch third. Iannone tried to steal the podium position away from him, launching various attacks in turn 1, but the fans’ favourite held firm and crossed the line in third place, 6.629s from first. Thanks to today’s results Rossi became the first rider to score over 5000 Grand Prix championship points (he has collected 5005 points in total).
Viñales didn’t get off to a good start from the third place of the grid and was swamped going into the first corner. Riding with the harder tyre spec that takes longer to warm up, he fell further back and completed the first lap in 11th place. As the tyres started to warm, the the youngster began to stalk fellow Yamaha rider Johann Zarco. A personal best time on lap 9 put him in a perfect position to pass the Frenchman at the start of lap 10.
From that point on, the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP man had a lonely ride, trying to close a nearly four-second gap to the rider in front of him. As the race went on, Viñales’ confidence grew. He kept his laps inside the 1’48s and with five laps to go he tagged onto the back of the fight for third place, at the time led by his teammate. The Spaniard was looking threatening, but having used up his tyres, he was not able to gain any further positions. He took the chequered flag in eighth place, 11.060s behind the leader.
Rossi’s podium finish moves him up to second position in the championship standings with 72 points, 5 points ahead of teammate Viñales, who dropped down to third. These results keep Yamaha in second place in the Constructor Championship, decreasing the margin to first to 22 points, while the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team reclaimed first position in the team standings and now have a 15-point gap to the second team.
MotoGP will be back in action in two weeks’ time at Viñales’ home Grand Prix, the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from June 15th – 17th.
Position: 3rd – Championship: 2nd – Points: 72
“It was a very tough race because we had to start with the harder front tyre, which we knew wouldn’t provide a lot of grip, so the race was very difficult. I tried not to make any mistakes, which was hard, and I also tried not to lose contact with the podium contenders. In my group the guys were riding on the softer tyre, so I hoped I would have a little bit more grip than them at the end. In fact, it was exactly like this, so I’m very happy, because the podium was the target for me. It remained difficult to secure it until the very last lap, because Iannone didn’t give up, but at the end it’s a great feeling here in Mugello.”
Position: 8th – Championship: 3rd – Points: 67
“The race wasn’t as I expected it would be after FP4. In the warm up I got a different feeling from the bike than during the race. I lost the front almost in every corner in the first laps. That was a shame, because after that I was one of the faster riders on the track after lap 10. Finally, I destroyed the front tyre and I couldn’t be on the podium, but I tried my best, like always.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today the tyre choice played a big part in the outcome of the Italian GP. We had to start the race with the harder spec because of the expected tyre degradation, but we knew this wouldn’t be the option that provided the riders with the most grip. The tyre decisions didn’t pay off until the latter part of the race. Nevertheless, Valentino managed his tyres well, whilst at the same time doing a great job staying within podium contention. This allowed him to make his move when the harder tyres gave him the edge over his rivals and secure an important second consecutive third place. Maverick had a difficult start to the race. He suffered from a lack of grip and was pushed down the order. Once the harder tyres started working, he was posting consistent 1’48s and he was able to close the gap to the front group, but by then there wasn’t enough tyre left for him to challenge the riders in front. Though it wasn’t the perfect weekend we set out for, we can still be satisfied that we decreased the gap to our rivals in the riders’ and constructors’ championship and reclaimed first place in the team standings. We will continue to work hard at the next GP to pile on the pressure.”