Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi saved the best for last at the Gran Premio Motul de la República Argentina weekend. He used his experience to cunningly make his move - a perfectly executed block pass - in Turn 7 of the very last lap, to take a superb second place. The final lap wasn’t lucky for team-mate Maverick Viñales. Though his challenge wasn’t all smooth sailing, he was looking competitive in the final stages of the race. He was lying in seventh place when another rider collected him on lap 25, resulting in an N.C. score.
Rossi had a strong start from fourth on the grid, held his position in the first corner, and shortly after moved up to second place. He aimed to prevent any riders from checking out at the front but didn't succeed, as he fell back to fifth in the busy group. Not for long, though: he steadily worked his way back to second place to lead the chasing pack.
Despite running wide on lap 7, he quickly made up for the lost time. When he was back in second place a lap later, the crowds were on their feet. As Marc Marquez was already over 6s ahead thanks to the battles of the chasing group, the Italian focused on defending his position.
While the number 46 rider’s tussles with Andrea Dovizioso for second place continued, the pair gradually broke away from the others. The Yamaha rider observed the riding style of his rival and perfectly picked the place and moment to pounce: on the last lap, in Turn 7, he put his YZR-M1 on the inside and made it stick. He crossed the line in second place 9.816s from first.
Viñales had a rocky start from second place on the grid, but was quick to slot into fifth, behind his team-mate. He made good on yesterday's promise to ride aggressively in the opening laps, moving past Jack Miller for fourth before crossing the line for the first time. However, the moment was short-lived. The Spaniard was swamped in the busy bustle of the front group and fell back to eighth.
He wasn’t taking it lying down, though. He earned back seventh place and pushed to the fullest to latch on to the group fighting for second. He was hanging in there but lost two positions as he ran wide with 9 laps to go.
Still Viñales didn’t give up. He had ensured his soft-soft tyre combination would last for the entire 25-lap race-length, and now he was about to pick the fruits of his labour. With five laps to go, he overtook Takaaki Nakagami for eighth. He had to close a 0.9s gap next and managed to reach the back of the group in front. He soon found himself in seventh position, but on the last lap disaster struck. Another rider accidentally clipped the back of Viñales’ bike, ending his challenge.
Today's results see Rossi climb to 3rd position in the championship standings with a 10-point gap to second and a 14-point margin to first. Viñales is now in 11th place, with a 36-point gap to first. Yamaha is third in the constructor standings, and Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP holds the same position in the team classifications.
The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team will be back in action in two weeks' time, when the MotoGP paddock touches down in the United States for the Grand Prix of the Americas, held at the COTA track in Austin, Texas.
"We are very happy and satisfied with this second place, though we are disappointed for Maverick. This weekend the team worked really well. We had some difficulties in FP1 and we were able to correct them and find solutions quite early on. This morning after the Warm Up, Valentino ultimately made the right decision for him, choosing the medium rear tyre. It has been a good team effort, so we really want to enjoy this second place. Maverick was feeling well on the soft tyres during Warm Up, so he decided to go ahead with them. However, already from the beginning of the race he was having difficulties when stopping the bike. We have to analyse this problem and try to understand it, because it's a pity he couldn't be as fast as this morning. To make matter worse, he was collected by Morbidelli on the final lap. It was a shame, but the most important thing is that both riders are OK. Still, the podium result is a good boost for us all and gives us good motivation for the next round."
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
"It's been a long time – since Sachsenring last year – that I've been on the podium. This second place is especially satisfying, because at the last two races last year, Malaysia and Valencia, I was lying in first and second place, but I made some mistakes. Finishing the championship like that was very difficult to accept, so also for this reason this result is so important for me, my team, and Yamaha, after a difficult period. I'm so happy! I tried to stay in front, because I expected to be faster, but today with the increased temperatures I struggled a bit more. Dovi stayed in front of me and rode a very good race with a good pace. We were able to break away from the guys behind us and be on our own. In that moment I knew I had to be very precise on braking to take second place, without making any mistake of even 1cm, else Dovi would pass me again. At that moment I was riding good, I entered very fast. I'm happy because, first of all, overtaking on the last lap is always special, and also because I did very good on braking."
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
"I saw the replay of the incident with Franco and it was nothing. It was the last lap and we all tried to be at our best, so it's just one mistake, and it is what it is. Maybe at the next race I will make the same mistake, it's something you can explain, it's not a problem. The soft tyres were for sure the right decision, because in the first lap, though I didn't start well, I was overtaking many riders, so finally at the end of lap 1 I think I was third or fourth. So that was not bad. But the bike wasn't working perfectly, so we need to keep working and see if we can solve it for the next race. Honestly, I feel good at every track, we show good potential. It's always in the race that we have an issue. When the bike is there, I'm always in the top-3."