Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi were both pushing 100 per cent today during Q2 at the Chang International Circuit, but it resulted in different outcomes. Maverick Viñales used a two-stop tactic to secure a spot on the front row for the PTT Thailand Grand Prix. Rossi was unlucky to have his bike wash out from under him on his first run. He had to make his way back to the box to switch to his second bike and ended up on the third row.
Viñales showed his hand right from the start of his pole challenge. He positioned his Yamaha firmly at the front on his first flying lap with a 1’30.332s but was later pushed back to second as rivals completed their second hot lap.
Meanwhile the Spaniard returned to the pits with nine and a half minutes left. Not wanting to waste any time he leapt from his first to his second bike and was soon back out on track. He was pushing to the limit on his second run, setting a 1’30.190s, but remained in third place. He had another go and improved his time once more to a 1’30.096s, but it still wasn’t enough.
With three minutes left, the number-12 rider made a second quick stop. Back on bike one, he had just enough time for one final try. He fully committed to putting his head down, dug deep, and dropped under the 1’30s-mark, posting a 1’29.825s which earned him second place on the grid, 0.106s from pole.
Rossi made a good start to the 15-minute Q2 session. He set a 1’31.080s on his opening lap, putting him in fifth place initially, before he was pushed back to ninth. He set a personal best sector on his next attempt, but the bike washed out from under him in Turn 5.
Having to leave his preferred M1 behind, the Doctor hurried back to the pit box to return to the track on his second machine. With a little less than four minutes on the clock, the Italian was back on route. Getting into the groove again, he bettered his time to a 1’31.019s but remained in tenth place and resumed the setting of personal best sectors. He clocked a 1’30.741s on his penultimate lap, moving him up to ninth. Unable to further improve his time on his last effort, he kept his spot on the third row, 1.022 from first.
"Today once again we saw the importance of being on your A-game on the Friday, because this morning’s wet conditions made it impossible to improve our time and position in the combined free practice standings. Fortunately, our riders were both set to take part in Q2 and that gave us the opportunity to work on the wet set-up during FP3. This could be crucial as we don't know what the weather will be like tomorrow during the race. Maverick has been really strong in all of today’s sessions. His qualifying time, a 1’29.825s, is a good lap, and P2 on the front row of the grid is a great place to start the race from. He has worked a lot riding under race conditions and he's confident that he will be able to take part in tomorrow's battle. Valentino was unlucky to get caught out in the middle of qualifying by the bumps in Turn 5. The incident cost him valuable time, so he ended in ninth place. It’s a shame, because this position doesn’t show his true potential. But the most important thing is that he’s completely OK. Since the tyre choice is done for tomorrow, in the morning we will focus on fine-tuning the bike, changing some final details. But, like I said, the weather is uncertain, and it might play a big role in tomorrow's race."
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
"The feeling is great, because considering our rhythm, and also on paper, we are in close contention for the victory. When it comes to one lap, we know our bike is good, so we profited from it again today. There are still some things to improve for the race. I'm feeling great on the bike, as I said, but we're going to try to make another step tomorrow. Anyway, we are happy, we're just one tenth from pole position and we're getting many front rows these races, and that is important: to be consistent. It will help us improve and be better each race. I can see myself on the podium tomorrow, because on paper our rhythm is stronger than that of most of the others, but you never know. For sure, we're going to fight for the victory from the first laps of the race."
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
"The crash is a shame. Maybe we could have started from a bit better position, because my pace in FP4 wasn't too bad. Unfortunately, during the qualifying on the first tyre I made a mistake and I was a bit wide, I think, and then lost the front on the bumps and crashed. So I came back to the box and went out with the other bike, but I didn't have the same tyres. It wasn't the perfect situation, but I was able to set a 1'30.7s so I'll start from the third row. We hope for good weather tomorrow morning, because we have to try something, also for the race. My pace is not so bad, but there are four or five riders that are very close, so we'll see."