Maverick Vinales went on to win the Qatar GP three weeks ago, but the race in Portimao was a total nightmare for him, saying that “all weekend we were struggling, we didn’t find out why.”
Maverick also had a good weekend in Doha, the second race of the season, where he finished fifth. The season started well for the Spaniard. However, in Portimao, it seemed as if he was riding a completely different bike.
Despite being quick in FP1 and missing pole position only because of the track limits, the race for him was incredibly hard, and he only crossed the line in the eleventh position.
Maverick explained that during the whole race he did not have enough grip on the rear, and he could not match the pace of the leader Fabio Quartararo. The Spaniard opted to use the hard tire on the rear for the race, and that might have been the problem. However, Quartararo won using that same compound.
“It’s pretty tough to understand if [the hard tire] was a mistake,” Vinales said.
However, Vinales said that if he did not receive a penalty that relegated him in P12 on the grid for the race, a top-five finish would have been possible.
“The start, we know we have an issue, and we cannot improve until we get something new,” he said, referring to the front holeshot device.
“However, if we start in the front row, we have a different race. Not to win, because today I didn’t have the pace, I had a very low grip on the bike, and I could not do anything incredible, but at least to be in the top five.
“We need to try to make a reset in our mind. We know that we can be fast. So we just need to keep working and keep calm. Honestly, even if it was a very bad result, it was not that bad in the end.
“But we need to understand what was the problem during all the weekend because I could only ride fast with the last time attack. The rest we were slow.”
The Yamaha rider admitted that the fact that the bike behaved so differently in Portimao was certainly an issue.
“It’s hard to keep the focus and especially the motivation when you see that you could win the two first races, then you arrive at the next track, and you struggle to be in the top ten,” Vinales said.
“It was a difficult race. I cannot explain why. The feeling was similar all weekend, with a very low grip on the rear tire. I only had good grip with the second tire of qualifying, which made a huge difference, and if they didn’t cancel my lap, it was good enough to be in the pole position.
“So basically all weekend we were struggling, we didn’t find out why.
“But it’s time to check, to see, and to improve. Because [otherwise] we will be on the same issue as every year, we start winning, and then little by little we slow down.
“This is not positive. We need to keep working as we did and see if we can find something. For sure we can take out something from this race because it was not normal what I was feeling on the bike.
“So let’s keep a positive mind, and now we are going to Jerez, a track that is very good for us and especially for me, and we will see. We will try to work harder to be even better.”
Yamaha team director, Massimo Meregalli, said: “It’s a day of two extremes for the team. Maverick wasn‘t able to find the confidence he was looking for in the opening stages.
“But he did do good damage limitation. He kept pushing, and because of the many crashes, the five points he collected today are all the more valuable.
“We will closely check what prevented Maverick from getting the feeling he needed to be more competitive in this race so he can come back stronger in Jerez.”