Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi started the penultimate 2019 MotoGP round getting into the mix for top billing. They ultimately finished the day at the Sepang International Circuit in fourth and fifth place respectively in the combined free practice results.
Viñales stayed true to his usual strategy and soon put his Yamaha in first place in FP1. Making the most of the perfectly dry conditions, he worked on tweaking the bike's setting and then upped his game on a soft-soft combination towards the end of the session with a 1’59.218s. The lap earned him third place, ending 0.191s from the top.
Confident in his morning lap time, the Spaniard fully focused on making progress with his bike's dry set-up during FP2. He tried various settings and tyre options in case of a dry race on Sunday. He was one of the few riders not to put in soft tyres at the end of the afternoon session but still clocked an under the 2m-mark lap, a 1'59.845s, taking ninth in the FP2 results, 1.269s from first. His fastest morning lap put him in fourth place in the combined FP timesheets.
Rossi had been strong in Sepang last year and it was clear from the get-go that he meant business again in Malaysia this weekend. He set a solid pace, spending most of the session in fourth and sixth place, but really put his game face on in the final minutes. He upped the ante on a double soft-tyre combination, setting a 1’59.893s for provisional first. However, as the pace quickened at the end of FP1, he was moved to eighth, 0.866s from first.
It remained dry for the afternoon session, allowing the Doctor to make further strides. He was in fourth place again when a mini time attack started with a little less than 10 minutes to go. The Italian was ready for the challenge and responded by setting a 1’59.284s. His time was fast enough to put him in third place in the FP2 and in fifth position in the combined free practice results, 0.708s from the top.
“It was a productive first day for us in Sepang. Two key elements to this round are the track’s two long straights and the extremely hot weather conditions. Usually, neither of these things work to our benefit, but so far we seem to be managing well, and it shows in the results with all Yamahas being fast. It's only early days, of course, but the signs are positive for our team. Maverick and Vale feel comfortable with the bike and are able to set competitive times, also on used tyres, so we’re heading in the right direction. We've also been able to compare different tyre compound specifications. That gave us quite enough information about which tyres we will most likely choose for the race. Instead of focusing on putting in a hot lap, Maverick used the second session to compare the tyres when the conditions were the most similar to what we expect for Sunday afternoon. Valentino, on the other hand, did a time attack at the end that improved his standing from FP1, so he's in a good position too, should it rain tomorrow morning.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“I'm really happy, because I felt pretty good with the bike straight away. We found a really good rhythm. Especially in FP2 I tried to understand what's what for the race: what the race situation would be like, the track, slippery conditions. I felt good, that's the most important, and tomorrow we have a good chance to meet our objective of being on the first row, that's our target. I feel very strong, we can do a good job. We're going to keep it like that. I'm going to try to better myself through the track, where I think I can still improve, and we will see where we are. But I think we have a good opportunity on Sunday.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“The first day wasn't so bad, because in FP2 I had a good pace with the race tyres. Also at the end I was able to do a good lap with the softs and I'm in the top 5. I'm quite consistent, but we're worried about the rear tyre, because the race is very long, it's 20 laps. Anyway, today we had two good practices and I was quite competitive.”