A perfectly sunny race day at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) delivered nothing short of a sensational Grand Prix of The Americas. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi put his heart and soul into today’s race and only just missed out on the victory, taking 2nd position. Maverick Viñales had an equally competitive race pace, but a ride through penalty after a jump start cost him valuable time and places. Still the Spaniard kept going, cutting through the rider pack all the way back up to 11th place.
Rossi rushed off the line, dashing towards the tight left first corner, just like he planned. He knew that if he wanted to challenge for the win today, he would have to push 100% right from the very start. He was doing a superb job to block Cal Crutchlow, whilst chasing Marc Márquez.
With 15 laps to go, The Doctor got a bit of breathing space as Crutchlow crashed out. At the time Márquez was almost 3s ahead of him, but the Italian never gave up. He searched for the perfect balance between keeping the pressure on and managing his tyres, and it paid off. Márquez crashed out with 12 laps to go, giving Yamaha the lead in the race.
The events also spurred on the chasing Álex Rins, but Rossi managed the gap until, with five laps to go, the battle for the victory was on. Rins came through a lap later. The veteran tried to retaliate, using a block pass, but it was unsuccessful and resulted in 0.5s gap. The number 46 rider was making a great attempt to undo the damage, inching closer, but he ran wide with two laps to go, meaning he had to do the work all over again. He wasn’t giving up, though. In the last lap Rossi managed to make up a lot of time and was looking threatening behind Rins in the final sector, but ultimately he came just 0.462s short as they crossed the finish line.
Viñales held firm at the start of Round 3, defending his P6 going into turn 1. He battled with Andrea Dovizioso and crossed the line for the first time in seventh place. With 17 laps to go, Viñales had to let Franco Morbidelli past, and more bad news was on the horizon as he was given a ride through penalty for a jump start.
A moment of confusion lost him 4s and five places, as he unnecessarily took the long-lap penalty lane. He completed the ride through penalty in pit lane on the next lap, which moved him even further back, to 19th place.
Though down the order, the Spaniard wasn’t out for the count. He soon flashed a red sector and started to climb up the ranking again. Whilst various riders retired from the race, he passed Hafizh Syahrin and found himself in P16, nearly back into the points and lapping more than 1s quicker than a group of nine riders ahead of him. He soon gained two more places, closed an almost 4s gap, took another two positions, closed a 5s gap, and overtook yet another rider to salvage an 11th place finish, 34.077s from first.
Today's results see Rossi climb to 2nd position in the championship standings with a 3-point gap to first. Viñales is now in 12th place, with a 40-point margin to the top. Yamaha is joint second in the constructor standings, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP is also second in the team classifications.
The team will be back in action in three weeks' time, when the MotoGP paddock embarks upon the European leg of the championship, starting with the Spanish GP, held at the Circuito de Jerez - Ángel Nieto.
"Today was a very mixed experience for the team, results-wise. Valentino really did all he could to get the victory. It's a shame - also for the team, but especially for him - that he just missed out. It was so close! Still, taking a second consecutive second place is very good, so we feel encouraged to keep up the good work. As so often in MotoGP, a small mistake can have a snowball effect and create a lot more trouble. After his jump start, Maverick lost a lot of time because of the ride through and the unnecessary long-lap lane. We can tell from his pace at the end of the race that he could have been a strong contender today. So, in the end there are some learning points after this experience, but I think one major positive that we can take away from this weekend is the overall bike performance. We've made another step and are looking forward to confirm the improvements at the next round in Jerez."
"I'm very sorry for missing out on the victory, because when I saw Márquez crash I said to myself 'Maybe I can do it', but after that Rins arrived. Sincerely, I pushed to the maximum, the race was very fast, I did one good lap after another, but in the end he was better than I was. I was riding very well, and I wasn't able to overtake him. It's a shame because I haven't won for a long time, but we are strong, and we will try again next time. On a positive note, I tried everything today, I rode a very good race and stayed in front for a long time. Riding on the limit, unfortunately I made some mistakes. Maybe if had done everything perfectly I could have tried to attack on the last lap again. So, mixed feelings: on the one side, I'm sorry about the victory, and on the other side it's a great result after a great weekend. I was strong and I rode a very good last lap, but I didn't want to do anything too crazy because 20 points are very important for the championship, which is still very open. It looks like we are strong this year and that the bike has improved, and these are the most important things, because maybe we can fight at the front many times this season."
"I misunderstood the penalty a little, but anyway, besides the mistake, it was a good race weekend for us here. We showed a really good race pace and after the ride through I could easily ride in the 2'04s. This is just the way it is. We will have to try again in Jerez and be stronger there. I made a mistake at the start. I was starting really well all weekend, this afternoon I tried to do the same, but on the grid the bike got a bit hotter and the clutch engaged and the bike started running. It's a shame, because I felt really good during the race. I already knew there was a chance that I would get a penalty, and that's just the way it is. At first, I thought I had to do a long lap, but then I saw 'ride through' and thought 'OK, I have to do this'. The good thing was that the bike was working really well. We had a good set-up for the race. We need to keep working and find the best system for the start. The start was actually good, as in that I didn't lose any positions, and I tried to overtake some riders. Let's see what happens at the next races."