As we all saw, Maverick Viñales won the Qatar GP. After making a series of passes, number 12 made a break for it in the final stages to score his first victory of the season. A deja-vu experience for the Barcelona native.
In fact, the championship’s very own "Tom Cruise" had already achieved similar feats in the past. When he won in Moto3 in 2012. And when he reached the top step of the rostrum with the factory M1 in 2017. Yesterday’s race was almost a carbon copy, though the rider now finds himself in a very different situation.
Considering his exceptional experience in the cadet class, where he won the title in 2013, his brief stint in Moto2 - with four race wins and the bronze medal to his name - Maverick now looks as if he’s back to being the fresh and explosive rider that he was with Ecstar Suzuki. Are we right?
Let him do as he likes. Or rather, let him be what he truly is
With Davide Brivio & co., Viñales made a stunning debut in the reigning class, with no undue pressure or stress. He had responsibilities, yes, but these were filtered by the Italian manager, who understand how to work with the sensitive Spaniard.
There’s no point imposing yourself on him or being curt with him in the garage. As the rider himself has admitted in the past: “Sometimes I want to feel coddled”. And there you go. The Suzuki method. We’re talking about a rider, the most complicated and unique ‘breed’ of human being. Mother-in-laws aside.
Having moved to Yamaha "Vinny" immediately did well. A double win in the first two races of 2017, followed by another at Le Mans. A DNF and a sixth place finish followed, but the feeling was that Yamaha had found itself a more than valid first rider.
In Yamaha, Vinny felt pushed out
But he wasn’t the first rider. And he realised this. It wasn't so obvious in the results, but in the overall dynamics. On the other side of the garage was Valentino Rossi, the man that brought the number 1 back to Yamaha... more than once.
Temperamental performances went hand in hand with contrasting statements, for years. First the M1 was good, then bad, then like this, then like who knows what. All between one session and the next. The problems were ‘always the same’, no ‘now everything’s great’.
Amidst all this indecision, a less than ideal relationship with Valentino. It appears very likely that they never spoke to each other outside the paddock. So imagine what it was like as they steered development of the M1. It’s not hard to imagine that one might have been saying white and the other black.
Mav is now Yamaha’s favourite missile
Viñales has done well. A new two-year contract, good money in the bank, the certainty that the four-cylinder Iwata machine will be developed according to his indications. Not bad. In addition, a renewed atmosphere in the garage, where Fabio Quartararo is a less oppressive presence than the nine-time champion.
We cannot say whether this atmosphere is better or worse, good or bad. It’s not our job and we have no way of knowing. But if we focus on the facts and look at pre-season testing and the opening race weekend, Maverick appeared calm. Serene even.
Or better, more serene. A determined Fabio Quartararo is not yet able to keep up. The powerful Ducati engine was beaten by number 12 (and his M1) and the Catalan appeared relaxed. A coincidence? We never saw this when Rossi was sharing the garage.
Translated by Heather Watson