Maverick Viñales dowsed Yamaha’s longest Grand Prix dry spell with an emphatic first victory since May 2017 at a sun-skimmed Phillip Island. #25 blasted away the 25 races without an M1 on the top of the box with a superb display around one of the fastest and most technical courses on the MotoGP slate.
Australian fans shivered through chilly and unrelenting winds on the south coast and a short distance east of Melbourne but were kept enrapt by another feast of Grand Prix action throughout the classes.
Viñales and Movistar Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi have bagged podium results but have battled set-up and technical misadventures with the factory bikes in search of victory since the Grand Prix of the Netherlands last summer. The arrival to Phillip Island caused Viñales to perk up. A slightly different approach to the majestic curves paid dividends.
“It was difficult,” he said of the lengthy time frame without spoils. “But I have a winning mentality when I train, when I am at home, when I am here…so for sure that helped me a lot. I always want to find more. In some ways this weekend we tried to do it differently: we maintained the same set-up and get used to the bike. They [Yamaha] need to try the bike to my riding style, especially in the middle of the turns, and if we have that then we have the chance to fight. I think Phillip Island suits us very well and we could hide a bit of our weakness.”
“I concentrated on the lines here because I knew if the bike could not be perfect then I could be,” he added. “I think the team did a good job because we have been working very hard.”
Maverick nearly dropped the ball. He plummeted from the first row of the grid to ninth position on the first lap. “I didn't expect to be so bad. I said to myself ‘you are stupid; what are you doing?’ I knew I needed to push but it was close.”
Viñales led 20 out of 28 laps but felt the heat from the ‘Andreas’ – Iannone and Dovizioso – as the sun dipped and the chequered flag beckoned. “The bike worked really good and we’ll try that in Malaysia,” Maverick said. “I just wanted to give my best and finally all my potential today. We’ll try to find the way to make it like this every race.”
Australia missed the talents of Jorge Lorenzo and Cal Crutchlow: both undergoing surgery for broken bones. The Spaniard is a doubt for round eighteen in a few days while the Brit will not leave the hospital in Australia until the end of this week. Props to MotoGP ‘rookie’ Franco Morbidelli though: the 2017 Moto2 world champion toasted his best result yet on the ‘big bike’ with eighth place.
Moto2 world championship Pecco Bagnaia had a hard run to 12th at Phillip Island but the SKY Racing Team VR46 ace guards a 37 point lead in the standings over Miguel Oliveira and is a matter of days away from the title if he can take points in the penultimate dice to come. EG 0,0 Marc VDS’ Joan Mir was at the heart of a six-rider bustle for the win. The Spaniard eventually took a strong second place for his first podium since Germany in July.
Moto3 was notable for two things: an almost indescribable twenty-rider fight that was a shocking as it was thrilling and the first ever podium ride – in just his second appearance for the SKY Racing Team VR46 – for fresh-faced Celestino Vietti. The replacement for Nicolo Bulega somehow asserted his presence in the buzzing pack and blasted out of the final corner to make the top three. “It was an incredible weekend and I could not hope for better,” the youngster said. “I pushed hard on the last lap and I want to say thanks to the team because I had a good feeling.”
The show doesn't stop. MotoGP swaps the beach and the wind for the city and the heat with a journey to Malaysia and the Sepang International Circuit next weekend.