Maverick Vinales says he is certain his first victory with Aprilia Racing is just around the corner as he chased home Pecco Bagnaia to secure a second place finish in the opening round of the 2023 MotoGP World Championship.
Coming into his second full season with the factory Aprilia squad, Vinales enjoyed a positive first weekend of the year in Portugal to pick up enough points to hold a provisional second place to Bagnaia in the overall standings.
Though frustrated to have his hopes of victory in the Sprint Race hampered by being forced wide early on, leaving him an eventual fifth, Vinales was able to stretch his legs in the feature event after Marc Marquez eliminated himself, Miguel Oliveira and Jorge Martin ahead of him on lap three.
Heading off in pursuit of Bagnaia, though Vinales shadowed the Ducati rider for several laps, he would be forced to settle for second place.
Even so, it marks an equal best result on Aprilia machinery for Vinales, who is convinced a first win on the RS-GP is close, potentially in Argentina next weekend where team-mate Aleix Espargaro triumphed in 2022.
“I worked hard, what can I say, I am really proud of Aprilia, they worked really hard all weekend. It is a shame in the sprint, I think we had the pace to win it, but I am happy. I tried to put Peccpo under pressure but he made no mistakes.
“I started with the elbows out, I said I wouldn’t let anyone past, because yesterday someone pushed me out at Turn 5 and I lost the opportunity to win there. I was very close to Marc and seeing all the action, but after I concentrated to go after Pecco.
“Our objective is to fight at the front and take the maximum, even if we don’t win, I will be happy. It will arrive, the victory will arrive.”
Having had a front row seat for the incident that took three riders out directly in front of him, Vinales admits he was alarmed watching the Marquez crash unfold ahead.
“I wouldn’t call it a jungle, but everyone is riding aggressively. Every position matters and we need to fight, so that is the thing right now, it’s survival.
“I braked very late and I thought they won’t make the corner. I saw Marc was going inside, then Jorge closed the door and he lifted the brake. When I saw the hit, I thought Miguel is going to have big pain.
Pleased to learn Oliveira has escaped major injury, Vinales reflected on Aprilia’s formidable presence at the front of the pack this weekend.
“I am happy because Miguel is at the front, so at Aprilia we are working quite well.”