Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Push to 5th and 7th Place in Doha
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Valentino Rossi pushed to the limit in the 22-lap race at the Losail International Circuit today, making up nine places to finish in fifth position. Maverick Viñales wasn't able to challenge until the final stages of the VisitQatar Grand Prix and crossed the line in seventh place.
Rossi had his work cut out for him, lining up in P14. However, with Fabio Quartararo starting from pit lane, the Italian found himself in 13th place entering the first corner. He gained another position in the opening lap and soon moved past Francesco Bagnaia and Aleix Esparagró to enter the top-10.
His rise in the rankings spurred him on. The Yamaha rider scrapped with Takaaki Nakagami in order to follow team-mate Viñales towards the front group. Knowing that saving tyres for the latter stages of the race would be crucial, Rossi kept his cool, but he had to put his head down when Franco Morbidelli passed him with 12 laps to go. Two laps later the number-46 rider returned the favour, using the slipstream to overtake his compatriot going into turn 1.
It was time to charge. Rossi overtook Viñales after lap 15. He then fought his way past Joan Mir and, with three laps to go, Danilo Petrucci was next. Once inside the top-5, the Doctor put his head down and dropped mid-1'55s laps but fell just short of being able to put in a move. He took the chequered flag in fifth place, just 0.600s from first.
Viñales started from pole but dropped to sixth place in the first corners. As he tried to get into a good rhythm, he fell back to eighth, but he soon started to fight his way back towards the front group. With 18 laps to go, he picked off Nakagami whilst being followed by team-mate Rossi.
The number-12 rider had a first look up the inside of Cal Crutchlow four laps later but decided the better of it. He maintained his tyres to get a second wind with eight laps to go, flashing two red sectors. He connected with the front group but didn't get to enjoy it for long, as Rossi soon passed him. With four laps remaining he found his way through on Mir to follow his team-mate.
The Spaniard posted two personal bests three and two laps before the end, trying to close an over-1.3s gap. However, he wasn't able to challenge the front-runners in the final laps. He crossed the line in seventh place, 2.481s behind the winner.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action in three weeks' time at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit for the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina, held from March 29th – 31st.
Valentino Rossi, 5th
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
"We worked hard from yesterday to today, we modified the setting of the bike, also for the race we made some other adjustments. We worked well and I'm happy, it was a good race. I felt good with the bike today and I also enjoyed coming from the back, so it's not so bad. I arrived in fifth, that's good, especially because I'm 0.6s from the victory, but at this track we are always good. We have to keep working because in some other places maybe we'll have more problems, but we'll take this result. I tried to get on the podium, but I was not strong enough."
Maverick Vinales, 7th
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team
"At the start I got a lot of wheelie, I couldn't keep the gas fully open and I missed the inside a little bit, so I couldn't keep a good line. Obviously, we have to improve the bike. When I'm alone I can do really good lap times, even in the middle of the race I could ride 1'55s-lows on my own, but as soon as I'm behind another rider I suffer this lack of grip on the rear, and I couldn't attack and overtake. We have to improve, and so do I. We need to keep working. The positive point is that we now know where we have to improve, and this is very important."
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
"After yesterday's qualifying, the team worked really hard to prepare something for Vale to give him a better feeling for the race. He did a great job riding to fifth place, especially considering that he had to come through mid-pack, which is always a bit chaotic. He was only 0.600s off the race win. Coming from 14th on the grid, that is a solid achievement. It's a shame Maverick couldn't exploit his pole position today. His rhythm in the middle and towards the end of the race was pretty good, but unfortunately the rear tyre he used in the race was performing less when he was riding behind another rider. We will try to find out what the reason is for this change. These are not the results we were hoping for at the opening round, but it's an indication of where we can improve. We will regroup and learn from this GP weekend and this race day, to prepare for the next round in three weeks' time."
PETRONAS Yamaha SRT make point-scoring MotoGP debut
The Losail International Circuit tonight played host to the historic debut of a Malaysian team in the MotoGP World Championship, as the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team picked up points at the first attempt. Franco Morbidelli finished in eleventh place after fighting throughout for a top ten position, whilst his teammate Fabio Quartararo recovered from a mistake on the grid that saw him forced to start from pit-lane, making an impressive MotoGP debut despite narrowly missing out on the top fifteen.
Morbidelli started from the third row and lost some positions in the opening exchanges, dropping back to 13th before fighting back into the top ten and lapping as high as eighth. The Italian spent a long time with the lead group before eventually losing touch, crossing the line in eleventh place to score five championship points.
Quartararo, who had qualified fifth on the grid, was sent to start from pit-lane after stalling his bike on the grid before the warm-up lap. Despite that setback, the French youngster put together an impressive fightback, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap three with a time of 1’55.039. Fabio continued the charge from last position through to sixteenth, narrowly missing out on a first MotoGP point.
Today’s result leaves Morbidelli in eleventh place in the championship, with Quartararo aiming for his first points when the MotoGP season continues with round two on the 31st March in Argentina.
Franco Morbidelli, 11th
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
"I would split my race tonight into two parts. The first half was good despite a bad start, because I was able to recover positions easily, run with the front group and manage the tyres. Unfortunately, we made a bad choice with the rear tyre and went for the soft option when the majority of riders went for the medium. I had to make the tyre last for as long as I could, but from around the halfway stage I started to struggle to stay with the group. It is a shame because we had the pace to finish higher up and we worked really well, being reasonably strong throughout the weekend, so we need to focus on the positives and keep this dynamic going in Argentina."
Fabio Quartararo, 16th
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
"I made a mistake before the start, which was a shame, but it is better to make mistakes at the start of the season rather than in the middle. The first lap was very difficult because the tyres were still cold so I had to really concentrate under braking, I stayed calm and was very careful until the tyres got up to temperature before I increased my rhythm and pushed. I struggled a little towards the end of the race but I am happy with the job we have done here during the weekend and also at the test. The biggest thing I learned from my first Grand Prix is that it is much harder to overtake in this category than it is in Moto2 and Moto3, but we did learn a lot during the race. I want to thank the team for all their support during my first Grand Prix in this category. Now I can’t wait for the next one."
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team Manager
"I want to start off by thanking the team for their excellent work throughout preseason and here at the first round of the season. Everything went really well up until the race. I think that’s the best way to summarise the Qatar GP! Fabio [Quartararo] stalled the bike on the grid and had to start from pit lane. Unfortunately, it was a small mistake that had a big consequence. However, he didn’t throw in the towel and he put together a strong pace in the race, making it up to sixteenth.
Morbidelli didn’t have an easy start, dropping from 8th to 12th on the first lap. Then he had to push to recover, whilst managing the tyres, but after fifteen laps the left side was very worn and the performance dropped off, losing speed and a lot of time under acceleration.
11th and 16th position was not what we were hoping for from this GP, but considering the exceptionally high level of this championship and the difficulties we ran into on Sunday, we can be proud of the job we did.