Maverick Viñales lines up at the front, alongside his Yamaha teammate, for the inaugural MotoGP of 2021 after securing third in Saturday’s qualifying at Losail.
Finding clear space on track, Viñales slide his M1 into third place on only his benchmark lap but as Q2 unfolded, the pace increased rapidly - the timing screens ablaze in orange and red across multiple sectors. The Spaniard responded by defending his position with a 1’53.260s lap, to stay third, 0.222s behind his teammate in first.
With exactly five minutes to go, the number 12-rider started his second run, briefly securing second with a 1‘53.124 before he was pushed back to fourth. Time left for one more try and Viñales made it count, improving his lap by 0.036s to a 1’53.088s - a time under the Doha circuit’s previous best - to sit third by qualifying’s dramatic conclusion.
“I‘m really happy because our objective was to be on the front row” said Viñales from Losail. “On the last lap there was a lot of dust in Turn 1, so I didn‘t push the way I wanted, but in the end I rode a 1‘53.0s that I‘m quite happy about.
“The bike was working amazing this evening. I enjoyed the bike a lot in FP4, and I was riding well but I think there are still some things that we can improve. I‘m happy that overall we are fast, this is good for us, and I just want to congratulate the team that in the end we have found a good bike and that we are ready for tomorrow.
“Today we can be satisfied. It was a bit difficult to go into the ’52 for us, but we know we have some margin to improve for the next race, which is really important. I think the rhythm was there, and we have a clear objective in mind. Tomorrow for sure will be a difficult race, but we have to have a clear strategy to understand where we are and what we can do.
Pleased that his crew chief Esteban Garcia was able to return to the garage after his isolation due to an inconclusive Covid test, the Spaniard explained “it’s not easy, Esteban knows me very well, he understand the way I work and it was not easy [without him]. Friday was quite tough, also FP3 but at the end we solved quite a lot of the problems. I found something nice in FP4 and tomorrow we will try to get the job done. For sure, there are many riders that can win the race, but we will see tomorrow.
“From my point of view we still need to understand the strength of the bike. For sure it’s not an easy bike to overtake. Here in Qatar, there is many spots where you need a fast bike to overtake so sure it will be hard, but we need to understand how to take out the maximum potential of the bike to overtake - maybe can be with speed corner, or braking late, we will see. We know we can pass in many points here in Qatar so for tomorrow we have a clear spot we can attack.”