MotoGP Assen: Qualifying key for Vinales, ‘ready to help Aleix win’| Christina Bulpett | MotoGP
Twelve months since his last MotoGP podium at the TT Circuit Assen, Maverick Viñales was back on the rostrum but in Aprilia colours.
It’s been a rollercoaster year for Viñales, since his acrimonious split with Yamaha, and a tough journey, with much criticism, as he got to grips with the RS-GP but the 27-year-old has always said it was coming.
The determination finally paid off with third position at one of his most favoured circuits on the World Championship calendar, although there was certainly a ‘what could have been’ hanging over the Sachsenring following a technical retirement from a strong run in fourth.
“Well has been a very tough race, but I enjoy a lot,” Viñales enthused from the Assen paddock on Sunday evening. “We came from Sachsenring where we thought we could fight for the podium. So we keep the motivation, we keep the momentum.
“I knew after the warm-up I could be able to be in the front but I never expected to recover places so fast on the first lap!
“So what I can say is just ‘Thank you to Aprilia.’ They are working fantastic, they believe in me every day and we are achieving step by step, the results. I know our potential is very high. It’s a long way and now it’s coming Silverstone, Misano, many tracks where I’m really fast and where I point to try to fight for the victory. Is not easy because there is few riders who are very, very strong and on a very high level. But step by step we are getting closer.”
The celebrations for Aprilia were twofold after teammate Aleix Espargaro recovered from a fifth lap tangle with Fabio Quartararo’s M1 - leaving him off track and down in 15th when he rejoined the action - to fourth at the flag.
“Honestly, I thought he was retired,” Viñales admitted. “So when I turn and I saw him I say ‘Oh, okay!’ So it was very fast. But anyway, I’m happy for Aprilia. We wanted very bad to be both in the podium but I’m happy for Aprilia, for all the Piaggio group because they don’t give up, they’re working very hard. I’m also very happy for Aleix because he close on the championship and it can be a very good second part of the season. So we will fight for it.
“If I have the chance to help him I will do, I will help Aprilia. Our thinking is always work on teamwork and there is signs many races ago, since Mugello, that we are working well together, and I think this is making us very strong.
“A lot happened but right now I’m the happiest man on the world,” he said of the past 12 months. “I can’t ask for anything more. I have a very competitive bike. Very good group. Completely nice factory, that Aprilia is behind myself, pushing me every day. I have a beautiful family so I can’t ask for more.
“I have everything I always dream about. I’m ready to push. I’m ready to go on the top.
“So I will push everyday very hard. I will make myself even stronger. It’s not easy because right now the competition in MotoGP is very strong but I know what I’m able to do, so I will push, push and push and see where I find myself in the last race of the year.”
So what does Viñales put the building success with the RS-GP down to?
“A consequence of the hard work and don’t give up every day,” he answered simply. “The thing that we know, my results was very strong. I remember Austin I was very strong but I started in 15th place and I could not make it on the race. Mugello, we were coming very strong, Montmelo, Sachsenring. I just somehow feel that my potential is to be in the front but I need to improve the qualifying.
“We need to improve the qualifying because, okay, these last races I did an amazing first lap and I’m quickly on the front but somehow I feel my potential can be much higher if I start in the front or second row. So our main objective in the second part of the season is to improve the qualifying because on the rhythm we are quite strong. That’s the only key, trying to start in the front and then I can manage better the tyre, so I’m ready.
“When I go to the qualifying, somehow I’m not able to take out the maximum from the bike, especially when I have new rear tyre,” he continued, on the final piece of the puzzle. “The bike push the front and I’m not able to close with the corner so I’m very slow in the middle of the corner and I lose lap time.
“I can be able less or more to do the same lap time with used and new tyres, which is good, is a good sign because we are strong in race, but we need to somehow set up the bike to make one lap also.”
The Aprilia partnership has brought with it a strengthening of friendship between himself and Espargaro, with the pair working seamlessly at times towards their end goal.
“We work quite together,” he continued on the budding bromance. “For example, there is some tracks where I’m able to feel things better than Aleix and he do many things better than me during the track. So it’s a learning process. We learn from each other.
“Here, I tried to help him a little bit in turn 12 and he helped me in turn 15. That’s the way, that’s the way to work. At the end, in the track, win the best but outside the track we need to work, we need to keep focus. It’s a long season and we have a dream that is to make Aprilia become world champion, so it doesn’t matter the result, if he’s first or I’m first, we want to make this bike competitive, this bike on the top and that’s the way. We help each other, like in Mugello we try to help each other with the gearbox and here I try to help Aleix in a few corners where I was more strong than him. I learned from him everyday because he know the bike really good. Actually now the bike for him is like glove on a hand and I need to learn few things from him.
“Of course if on the second part of the season I become stronger, we become better and Aleix is very close for the championship, we need to think on Aprilia. We need to think on the group. And if I have the occasion that one race I’m faster than Aleix but it’s important that Aleix finish in front of me for the championship, at the end I am working for Aprilia and I will do. I will try to help Aleix. We are working good together since Mugello. We found a way to work together and make us stronger. So that’s clear.
“If Aleix had the chance to fight for the championship and I need to make him pass I will do. At the end we are working for Aprilia, for Piaggio group and if Aleix has the chance, I will help him for sure.”