Movistar Yamaha Push The Limit In First Qatar FP Session
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team made their first steps in the 2017 MotoGP title challenge today at the Grand Prix of Qatar. Riders Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi didn't hold back in the first free practice session of the season at the Losail International Circuit, securing first and ninth position respectively.
Viñales fell right back into his winter testing groove and smoothly built up his pace as he circulated the track under the floodlights. With all 23 MotoGP riders eager to start the 2017 World Championship, traffic offered an extra obstacle, but the young Spaniard was unfazed and stormed to the top of the standings with a 1'39;55.668s lap and more than 30 minutes remaining. Feeling confident with his progress, Viñales worked on the bike's electronics around the 5.4km circuit. His time set in the early stages was untouchable for the competition until the pace picked up in the final minutes of the session. However, he wasnt shy to respond and dropped a 1'54.739s for the provisional lead in the standings. Showing he meant business, he followed it up with a 1'54.316s lap to extend his lead after day one to +0.596s.
Despite the Losail track being quite dirty and windy at the start of the 45-minute practice session, teammate Rossi needed less than 10 minutes to breach into the top three, with a 1'56.695s. Fully focused on getting his YZR-M1 completely ready for the first race of the season, he worked on improving his feeling with the front while the pace of the field quickened. The Doctor used his expertise to further improve his times, shaving off tenths in various parts of the circuit. He ended the day with a 1'55.799s lap for sixth place, 1,483s from the leading time, but was pushed to ninth position as a few riders left their flying lap to the last minute. As Sunday's race will be held at 21:00 (GMT+3), there will be a second and third free practice session held tomorrow evening at 18:00 18:45 and 20:55 21:40 (GMT+3) to enable the riders to be fully prepared for the night event.
Maverick Viñales - 1st, Time: 1'54.316 / 18 LAPS
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team
"I'm feeling good. During the last part of the test I felt confident and today I felt the same. I went out on the same bike and the track was looking good, so I just pushed and tried to do my best. The bike is working great and the team is doing a good job all the time and we improved the electronics a bit, so that helped to set todays lap time. At the end, I put in a new tyre and set that 154.316s. The important thing is that tomorrow we'll work really hard on the race pace. Today we were feeling good on the medium tyres and I was able to set nice lap times, but we decided to put in the new tyre anyway, so in case it rains tomorrow we'll be in Q2. The track was little bit dirty and windy on the first couple of laps, but then the wind calmed down so we had more power on the bike and that helped a lot. The first laps were quite difficult with the wind, the bike was wheelying and there wasnt a lot of grip on the circuit, but suddenly the track improved a lot and when I put in the new tyre I just had to push and go for it."
Valentino Rossi - 9th, Time: 1'55.799 / 18 LAPS
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team
The performance was not fantastic, but I'm in the top ten and this is good because we don't know what the conditions will be like tomorrow. With the softer tyre I thought I would be able to push a bit more and improve by some tenths, but with the race pace we are a bit far behind and we have to find something better. At the end of the practice we did some modifications that could be not so bad, so tomorrow we will try to understand if we're closer. I hope we can improve.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
We have officially completed the first timed session of the MotoGP season and we are satisfied with today's results. Maverick started exactly in the same way as he finished the winter testing. He continues to show his fast and consistent pace whilst trying different settings. His 1'54.316s lap time was impressive and boosts our confidence, but we believe there's still a margin for improvement. Vale started this free practice with a different weight distribution than during the test a fortnight ago, because they are still working on improving his feeling with the bike. Even though he's still not 100% satisfied, they found some important information, so we are quite confident that he will be making improvements in FP2 and FP3. Tomorrow the riders will be putting their attention towards making another step concerning the race distance.
Tech3 Duo Power to Notable Results on Day One Under the Floodlights
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 pair ignited their rookie campaigns with two highly impressive performances on the opening day of action in Qatar. Young German rider Jonas Folger turned heads by storming to 4th in the solitary practice which he superbly concluded as the top independent rider after setting his rapid time in the final moments of the session. Whereas double Moto2 World Champion Johann Zarco surged to 8th after ending up only two-tenths of a second behind his teammate. Both riders fully intend to continue their positive momentum tomorrow with the second practice session kicking off at 18:00 local time.
Jonas Folger - 4th - Time: 1'55.587 - Laps: 15
Monster Energy Tech3 Yamaha
"I'm very pleased to finish the first free practice in this way. Having said that, the conditions were tricky because of the strong winds and this made the bike feel so different. Now we have to rebalance the suspension, especially as we were on soft tyres, and we also have to adjust the electronics so that I can hold the line better on the track, and therefore, ride the corners in a smoother manner. Nevertheless, we did a great job and the team and I started my first Grand Prix on the YZR-M1 in a really solid way. I can't wait to get back on the asphalt tomorrow where I will continue to do my best."
Johann Marco - 8th - Time: 1'55.792 - Laps: 18
Monster Energy Tech3 Yamaha
"The first day went well for me and I am happy that I ran consistently inside the top ten. You never know what the weather will do during the other sessions, so the team and I used some strategies which enabled me to be quick straight away. At the moment, finishing day one in this position is positive and I felt good on the bike. I am pleased that we tested here not long ago and thanks to this, I could make full use of the references that we made. I don't feel that the circuit is as rideable as it was during the test, but Maverick is very quick so this means that the track is ok, which raises my confidence. Tomorrow's aim is to reduce the gap to Viñales, because he is top and also a Yamaha rider, so although he has more experience, if I can close in on him I will stay inside the top ten and that is important for the rest of the weekend."