Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi pushed to the limit in the 22-lap race at the Losail International Circuit, 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 tires 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 No. 46 rider returned the favor, 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 checkered 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 tires 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.
Valentino Rossi: “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 Viñales: “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.”
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.