Vinales on his maiden victory on his debut with Movistar Yamaha
Image credit: Gaetano Piazzolla

He dominated throughout the testing and dominated Free Practice, and just to confirm that he was definitely worthy of the move to the championship winning team, Movistar Yamaha, Maverick Vinales went and won the opening race of the 2017 season, his first with his new team, at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar.

Weather causing extra stress and doubt in Qatar

Rain threatened the race going ahead at all as a light shower fell after the Moto2 race, and when the riders completed the sighting lap, they were seen carrying on to the run-off areas at the later turns, before returning to the grid where they made their way straight to the officials to express their concerns. The start was delayed, they returned to the pits, it got delayed again, and then after some time passed, they completed two warm-ups before assembling on the grid to get the 2017 season opener underway.

Vinales on pole after Free Practice times combined

Vinales was on pole as he set the fastest time during the three Free Practice sessions that took place before the final session and Qualifying was cancelled due to heavy rain and a very wet track that proved dangerous for several reasons on the floodlit track.

Initially Vinales fell back to fifth in the rankings but as the race progressed on, initial race leader, Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) crashed out after extending a lead, allowing Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) to take over. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) was behind and battling with Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) who clipped the back of the Spaniard and also crashed out of the race.

Vinales progresses through the ranks

By the 10th lap, halfway through the race as laps were reduced due to the delayed start, Vinales was able to catch up to Dovizioso and Marquez ahead of him, bringing his new teammate, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha) with him in the process. Two laps later, Vinales managed to pass the 2016 MotoGP champion heading into turn one, and a further two laps later he was able to take the lead from Dovizioso.

On the 15th lap, although Vinales led over the line, the acceleration of Dovizioso’s Desmosedici GP17 meant that he led into turn one. However, a battle commenced and Vinales was able to pass neatly later on in the lap. Vinaleswent wide on the next lap allowing him back through but Vinales retaliated. Once again on the 18th lap, Dovizioso passed him at turn one, but on the penultimate lap, Vinales again retaliated and went on to collect his maiden victory first with his new team.

The Spaniard left feeling incredible with maiden Movistar Yamaha victory

Vinales was left feeling “incredible” which he said, “shows in the results”. He thought that they “did a great job during the whole weekend” and that they “started good in the test” before going on to feel “really good” during the opening practice session. However, he found the race to be “difficult” and explained that with the rain “there was a bit of confusion” and they were left feeling like they “didn’t know what to do”.

Describing the race he found the opening laps to be “very challenging” as he explained that the “track was so slippery” and he wanted to “take it easy and stay calm”. Knowing that he “had a good pace” he decided to try and “push at the very end of the race”. He noted that there were “many crashes at the front” and so he “waited for the right moment and finally [they] took the victory”.

Messy start for the Spaniard

He found that his “start was good” however he explained how he “just went outside of the line” and that Zarco crashed into him which meant he “had to pick up the bike” when he found that Marquez and Dovizioso passed him which made it “a bit chaotic on the early lap”. After that he found he was “able to concentrate”.

Vinales said, “The feeling when I crossed the line was incredible.” He described that his first victory with Yamaha was “even more important than the first MotoGP victory because there was so much pressure”. Throughout the test he mentioned how they were leading and being told, “You can do it!” and he was left feeling “happy how [he ] handled the pressure and also that the team worked really good.”

Discussing the bike he found that the “electronics were ready and the grip of the tyres was really good on the last laps”. He explained how the “third sector was honestly so crucial” as he knew that Dovizioso opted for the soft compound Michelin Power Slick and that he “collected the benefits and could accelerate better all the time and he didn’t waste the tyre” and so as a result he found it was “hard to beat him”; still he felt that in the third sector he was “really strong the whole weekend”.

Vinales hopes to carry success into Argentina

Confirming his strength he mentioned how he set his “best sector three on the last lap and it was the minimum to take the victory”. He was left feeling “so happy” and his attention drew to the next round where he hoped for “a perfect start in Argentina”. Vinales as a result leads the championship heading after collecting maximum points with his victory.