Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team-mates Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi showed confidence in today’s Q2 session. Viñales was one of the favourites to take pole but had to ultimately settle for second place. Valentino Rossi put in an early charge too and later completed the qualifying earning sixth position on the grid.
Viñales began his Q2 challenge by slotting into sixth place to then push and take over at the top with his second try, an amazing 1’58.676s lap. Because of the length of the Sepang International Circuit, he couldn’t get another fast lap in on his first tyre. The Spaniard was the last rider to arrive back at pit lane, but it was all part of his plan in an effort to avoid towing riders.
As the second half of the 15-minute shoot-out started, Franco Morbidelli put in his bid for pole, moving the Factory Yamaha rider down to second. However, with a fully clear track ahead, Viñales wouldn’t give up without a fight. He responded with a 1’58.406s to reclaim first place, be it just temporarily. A late hot lap from Fabio Quartararo moved the number-12 rider to second, 0.103s from pole. He will start tomorrow’s race from the middle of an all-Yamaha front row.
Rossi was strong in FP4 and continued the momentum at the start of the Q2 session. He set the benchmark lap, putting his Yamaha in provisional first place with a 1’59.313s, but he was later pushed back to seventh as he completed his second try. Unable to further improve, he headed back to the pits for a fresh set of tyres with slightly less than six minutes remaining.
The Italian was in the midst of the rider field pushing out flying laps on his second run. He was determined to get a good starting position and moved up to fifth on his next effort. The chequered flag came out shortly afterwards, but the Doctor had one more lap left. Many riders were upping their pace, but number 46 dug deep and produced a 1’59.000s lap for sixth, 0.697s from the front, earning himself a place on the second row.
Following the tragic loss of Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup rider Afridza Munandar this afternoon, Yamaha wish to express their sincere condolences to the family, friends, and loved ones of Munandar.
“It’s been another positive day for us in Sepang. Maverick and Valentino show great pace at all the track sections, so we feel quite ready for tomorrow’s race. Even though both riders are mostly satisfied with their bikes, we will try to see if there are still some small areas where we can improve. We did well with the tyre comparison with a view to the race, and we have a general idea of what direction we will take. Having both riders on the first two rows was our goal for today, because it plays a crucial part in having them in place to fight at the front in tomorrow’s GP. A full Yamaha front row is once again showing the improvements we made this year, our work is paying off. Now we are putting it all together, so tomorrow we have to realise our potential and get the job done.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“Starting from the front row tomorrow is the most important. We're going to keep working, but I think we did a good job today. We felt really good in FP3 and then in qualifying we did the best we could. We are in second place by just 0.1s, so we’re really happy. We will try to make another improvement tomorrow. I will try to take the lead in the first corner and then I will push at my maximum from the beginning. Like I’ve said before, we have nothing to lose and everything to win, so we’re going to push, push, and push, and we'll see. A podium would be important for us, that would be really good.”
MONSTER ENERGY YAMAHA MOTOGP RIDER
“All the Yamahas are very strong; this is good for us. I will start from the second row. Maybe I could have done a bit better, but we had some problems with the traffic on the second tyre. But anyway, starting from the second row isn’t so bad. We worked a lot on rear tyre degradation and on making the rear tyre choice, because the soft and the medium are options for the race. We will see what we can do for tomorrow’s Warm Up, and after that we’ll see for the race, though we’re hoping for a dry race.”