Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi kept their heads cool under unnerving circumstances before the race and stormed to first and third position respectively.
As all sessions were cancelled yesterday, due to standing water on the track, thereby lessening the riders‘ time to practice and perfect their race settings, the level of adrenaline on the grid was even higher than usual. The race start then being delayed twice, due to sudden rain causing dangerous track conditions, added even more to the tension. Eventually, after two warm-up laps to give the riders a feel for the track, the race got under way 45 minutes later than scheduled.
Viñales secured his first MotoGP pole position thanks to a stunning lap in FP1, but it didn‘t help him at the start of the shortened 20-lap race. The young Spaniard gunned off the line and arrived at the first corner in second place, but had to sit up as 23 riders dashed through the first corner, losing him time and positions and pushing him back to fifth. He slowly picked up the pace as he got a feel for the conditions and, feeling the hot breath of his teammate down his neck, six laps into the race, he knew exactly when to put the hammer down.
As fellow Yamaha rider, Johann Zarco crashed out of the lead, the Spanish youngster saw the promise of a podium position dangling in front of him. He bridged the gap to Andrea Iannone and tapped on his back with eleven laps to go. A lap later the Italian cracked under the pressure and crashed in front of Viñales, who skilfully avoided him and pushed up to third place. Now on a charge, the Spaniard soon flew past Marc Marquez to start the hunt for leader Andrea Dovizioso.
Viñales put his head down to decrease the margin of 1.2s, making big strides. Two laps later he passed the Italian, clinching first position. Dovizioso fought back, overtaking the young hero at the end of the long straight, but Viñales used the nimble character of his YZR-M1 to perfection. The last five laps were filled with constant push and pull action between the two riders, but the Yamaha debutant's stunning last lap, a personal best of 1'56.157s, saw him take the chequered flag in first place, 0.461s ahead of his closest rival. This victory makes Viñales the second youngest rider to win in the premier class with different manufacturers, after Mike Hailwood.
Teammate Rossi had to start his 2017 campaign from tenth position, but the Doctor didn‘t take long to cut through the field. Launching his YZR-M1 past various rivals as the starting lights went out, he grabbed seventh place, despite a collision in turn one. With 18 laps to go the Italian was the quickest man on track, trying to pass Dani Pedrosa in front of him. Seeing the front group break away, he made his move a lap later and slotted in behind his teammate.
The Yamaha duo moved up two places as Zarco and Iannone fell victim to the high pace needed to stay in contention in the first hot battle, under unfamiliar track conditions. Rossi ran wide going into turn 1 with ten laps to go, but he recovered quickly. He followed his teammate past Marquez, making the crowd cheer, as now both Movistar Yamaha riders were in for a podium place.
The veteran bided his time as Viñales and Dovizioso battled for the lead. With four laps to go he set his personal best time, a 1‘56.398s, and was looking threatening, but due to tyre wear he was unable to join in on the fight for the victory and had to settle for a hard-fought third place, crossing the line +1.928s behind his teammate.
Viñales' superb win earns him first place in the championship standings with 25 points. Rossi now holds third place in the championship with 16 points. Thanks to today‘s results Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the lead in the teams' championship with 41 points, whilst Yamaha leads the Constructor standings with 25 points.
The next round will be held at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, in Argentina, in two weeks‘ time.
What a way to start the season! It‘s been a very difficult day for everybody: first we had to wait because the start was delayed twice and when we finally got the race underway we were still not certain about what the track conditions would be like. Maverick did a superb job and showed a great level of maturity. He waited for the right time to cut his way to the front of the pack and his battle with Dovizioso was an incredible treat for all the motorsport fans. It's a big achievement to claim the win at his first race with Yamaha and his result is the award for the superb job he‘s been doing since he joined Yamaha, back in January. Valentino again delivered one of his salvage races, when he worked his way through the field, even despite being hit in the first corner by a fellow rider. It was a shame that his tyres were too used towards the end, else he could have joined the fight for first place. Winter tests were really challenging for him and he‘s never given up, together with his team, to try to find the right feeling with the 2017 bike. Today‘s third place is the result of the deep dedication and massive effort he and his crew put into this race. We leave Doha with the first double podium. Now we look forward to the next race!
I feel incredible and it shows in the results. We did a great job during the whole weekend and we started good in the test, then in FP1 we were already feeling really good. The race was difficult, it started to rain and there was a bit of confusion because we didn‘t know what to do. The first laps were very challenging, the track was so slippery and I wanted to take it easy and stay calm. I knew I had a good pace, so I tried to push at the very end of the race. There were many crashes at the front, so I waited for the right moment and finally we took the victory. The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible. As the first victory with Yamaha, it was even more important than the first MotoGP victory, because there was so much pressure. We were leading all the test, “You can do it”, and finally we did, so I‘m happy how I handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good. The electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps. The third sector was honestly so crucial, because Andrea [Dovizioso] used the soft tyres, so he collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn‘t waste the tyre, so it was hard to beat him, but in sector three I was really strong the whole weekend. I set my best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory, it‘s really great, I‘m so happy. I hope for a perfect start in Argentina. The start here was good, but I just went outside of the line and when Zarco came he crashed into me, so I had to pick up the bike and then Marquez and Dovi passed me so it was a bit chaotic on the early laps, but then I was able to concentrate. We have to continue like that and maintain this concentration.
My secret is my team, it‘s Yamaha. We never give up and we always keep up our concentration. I always feel the support and the trust from all the guys around me, which is great. We know our potential and we know we have a great bike and race rider. Sincerely, when I was in the top five I already said “this is OK”, but arriving on the podium is something even better. I‘m very happy to start the season like this, because the podium is always better and, like was said, it comes after a difficult period. We have to continue like this. This result is very good for us, both for our feeling and also for the technical side, because we now understand a lot of things.