Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales looked confident ahead of Sunday’s FrenchGP after completing the opening day at Le Mans in third position.
Viñales had a good start to FP1 and wasted no time in getting familiar with the Bugatti track’s wet conditions, with his confidence improving alongside his lap times despite becoming one of a number of riders to suffer a crash at turn three. The Spaniard’s fall came at low-speed due to cold tyres as he was about to start his last run with the valuable time lost resulting in him ending the session in 12th place, 3.292s from first.
Wanting to optimise his chances for a place in Q2, Viñales made full use of the drier FP2, tweaking his M1‘s dry settings whilst making sure to maintain a top-10 position at all times. His final effort was rewarded with a 1’32.136 lap, earning him Friday’s third fastest time, just 0.389s from Johann Zarco.
“Today has been positive” Viñales said. “We found many good things on the bike in this morning’s wet session - actually, it wasn’t fully wet, there were some dry parts. You have to go fast in those mixed conditions, which isn’t easy because the tyre tends to overheat too much and then you slide a lot.”
Reflecting on his FP1 crash at the notorious turn three, the Spaniard explained “I had just switched from the soft wet to the medium wet tyres, and I was too optimistic. I just pushed too much in corner three. I went to put the knee down and I just crashed straight away, I think it was cold tyre, so totally my mistake. I needed to wait a little bit more.
“It has been difficult. I will not say disaster, but will say difficult, because the first lap feels like you are on the ice, especially on the left side. The right side, straight away is good but the left side needs at least two, three laps.
“In FP2 I felt good straight away. In the first run I was just trying not to make too many mistakes and set some good laps in case it rains tomorrow morning, and then we started to push. Overall, I feel that we have a good opportunity here. We need to try to understand how we can improve on track a bit more, and then we’ll see but I think this could be a really good weekend for us.
“I concentrated today to make the race rhythm because we don’t know when we’re going to get another dry session. In case on Sunday it’s a dry race, I tried to understand the race set-up a little bit, but overall I feel really good. We need to improve a few things on the bike, which is not difficult, I think it’s more about details and then we are ready to fight. So, I’m very happy to be back on a good level.”