Top gun Maverick Vinales wins in Malaysia
Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Maverick Vinales has been crowned the king of MotoGP in Malaysia after winning the Sepang race in style, putting on a show for fans and charging forward when it mattered the most. Top Gun Maverick as he is known across the globe, was a quiet achiever throughout the weekend and put his strategy into motion when it mattered the most. It is his first win since the Dutch TT and a good reminder to the grid that when Vinales is feeling good, he is very competitive and not shy of pushing limits. It will come as a surprise to some and not to others. If you studied the pace of Vinales all weekend, you would have seen that a Yamaha was going to be at the top, it just happened to be the factory bike not the home grown team of PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team bikes of Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli. If you were to ask Vinales about Quartararo’s race, he would say refer to the team and ask them the question because today is about Monster Energy Yamaha, the success of the #12 team and remembering a fallen rider from the Asian Talent Cup, that of Afridza Munadar. Vinales rode a perfect race and approached in a totally different mindset which is important to the growth of the sport plus the Yamaha journey which has been like a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
MV12: “It is amazing because in Phillip Island I felt like I had the victory in my hands. Here, all weekend I was consistent with tyres, time attacks, so I knew if I got the first place, I had a chance to push and push, open a gap. I am very happy, pleased and congratulations to the team. Four to five races ago, we are becoming more strong. Honestly, I will enjoy this! When I saw Marquez, I say again, like Phillip Island. This time, I kept some in the pocket just in case Marc came back so honestly very happy. We managed the weekend very good. In many races, I was trying to fight for the victory and today we had the chance. Thank you to all the people supporting me”.
The race start was no shy of close calls with a cracking start by Marc Marquez skyrocketing from 11th on the grid to finishing a stellar second with Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso finishing in third and managing to hold off local favourite Valentino Rossi from achieving a podium finish. If there was an award for a race start, it would go to Marquez who once again showcased to the world why he is a multiple World Champion. When it matters the most, the Spanish Ant pushes and excels within reason and today it was a privilege to witness such greatness. The lines he took, the speed he carried from entry to exit was incredible and something the history books will remember. Not to mention, other riders will study how the Repsol Honda MotoGP rider managed to engage his bike to a point that was stable yet fierce.
In addition to this, Alex Rins and Jack Miller had a scary moment which resulted in Rins losing a wing and Miller being the receiver of the hit. It was a tad ambitious by the Spanish rider and the Australian rider looking back at speed as to who hit him with such force. It was not an ideal experience at turn fifteen and no doubt Miller will be looking to finish off in Valencia with a result that allows him to remain on everyone’s radar as a rival and competitor.
Overall, it was an odd race for the Miller Thriller and this time the front tyre was the one to cause him grief. JM43: “The start was very good and I tried to take my rhythm trying to control the race pace. From lap three, however, the feeling with the front tyre dropped a lot and I couldn’t push anymore. It’s a shame because I felt like I had the pace to fight for the podium. The contact with Rins? It was a very strange race, I suffered a lot of attacks maybe over the limit. But these are races.”
Mental strength in this sport of two wheels is crucial and Vinales was extremely calm today and more refined. He looked like a different rider after the mistake he made in Phillip Island. It was a nice change to see with three different manufacturers on the podium: Honda, Yamaha and Ducati. All three riders dedicated their podium places to Afridza Munadar who tragically passed away yesterday at the circuit after succumbing to injuries and was in everyone’s thoughts during such a difficult time.
Marquez spoke of his race weekend and how he approached the Sepang circuit considering tyre choices on the grid. It has been a brilliant season of top two finishes for the Spanish rider, another notch to the record books as to why he is considered a “GOAT”. MM93: “I am very happy for my race, my brother of course, the first lap was incredible. Dovi also did an incredible start, he was like a rocket from the left of the grid and yeah in the first corner I did a good move there and was pushing. I was looking for Vinales, Maverick, because I knew that he had the best pace. I knew if I catch him, I would be with him like in Phillip Island but in two laps, I lose time with Jack. Maverick was faster. He was the fastest guy on the track. I did the most difficult, try to finish the race, I was pushing, catching and then made a mistake on turns seven and eight. Apart of that, happy! We start from 11th, normally we struggle a lot.”
Marquez also made mention of his brother’s Moto2 World Championship to which he was crowned today in style by finishing second just behind South African rider Brad Binder. Living in the shadows of Marc is one thing, to be another Marquez Champion is excellent with a combined ten titles shared between the two.
MM93: “I am so proud of my brother. It is very difficult to be the brother of. The pressure that he get. When he started in Moto2 with not so great a feeling but the team believe in him. Then he arrive. Honestly speaking, social media is sometimes good and is hard. I say to him, don’t check the social media, keep pushing, keep going, you are the same man who won in Moto3 a World Championship, win races in a row and today he did a Champion race. He is not the brother of, he is Alex Marquez”. It was nice for Marquez to recognise his younger brother in amongst his own success. Champions are made and new beginnings will come to light in 2020 as both brothers aim to win again.
Those who did not excel today were Cal Crutchlow, Johann Zarco, Joan Mir, Danilo Petrucci, Franco Morbidelli and home favourites Fabio Quartararo. Both LCR run bikes ended up crashing which was incredibly disappointing considering Crutchlow’s pace and performance all weekend.
CC35: “Today was a difficult race, we’re very disappointed with the result of crashing out of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Today I got a really bad start and on the first lap found myself really far back in the field already. I tried to make progress and I was in a group that eventually finished around eighth place, but I had a bad feeling with the tyres today and didn’t feel good grip from the track or with our bike setting. Over the weekend I felt we’d made progress and could have had a good result today, but after the bad start I struggled to have the pace of going with the front guys. With the crash, I made a small mistake in the braking as I was trying everything to find the grip with the front tyre and unfortunately I locked the front. But we’d had a good last few races and now we look forward to the season finale in Valencia.”
Keeping on a role and have that momentum is vital and it was an unfortunate Malaysian race for the British rider who had everything in order except the final result. It was clear from Vinales, Marquez and Dovi that the grip on the circuit was so much poorer than Friday and Saturday, which did not enable certain riders to feel comfortable. In contrast, Zarco felt quite good and is eager to keep reaching new heights with the Honda bike.
JZ05: “I must be happy about the race. I had good pace and I was back fighting with good guys. I still need to make another step to understand the bike better and ride this Honda better, but I feel there’s good potential that I can go faster and be with the top guys. Today has been a good race, it’s always difficult in Malaysia with the warmth, but I was giving my best and controlling things quite well. I had a good fight with Jack Miller for eighth position, I was a bit faster than him and tried to overtake him many times, but he was fighting hard. Then I tried to overtake him again three laps from the end and Joan Mir on the Suzuki tried an extreme overtake and totally pushed me away and I could not control the bike. It’s a shame, but what I keep in mind is that I was back in a good feeling and in a better position, so I need to keep pushing and learning and hopefully we’ll get a good result in Valencia.”
The one rider who feels as though their bike is lacking is DesmoDovi with the factory Ducati.
AD04: “The start helped me a lot. To fight for the podium. I was a good position but it was a bit aggressive at the beginning. I lose two positions, but in any case, I did not have the speed to keep with Marc. I was missing something. I tried to stay but I made a mistake. Happy about our result, because of the dry race and heat. The gap is not that big but I had the chance to try to make a better position and we couldn’t. Not happy about the speed. At the end it was important for us to get back on the podium especially with the bad qualifying.” The Ducati bike works well on the long straights and his bike does help him a lot. All three riders have looked at themselves deeply recently and are trying to become the best versions of themselves with the bikes they are on. Marquez is one with his Honda though wants more improvements, Vinales is feeling better race by race and Dovi wants Ducati to implement improvements to excel further ahead where they can actually showcase more positive points to negative points.
So what is the target for the remainder of the season and 2020. Marquez made it clear who he thinks are his rivals and Vinales is on target with his bike after a long time trying to find the correct unification between himself and Yamaha. Their thoughts are as follows:
MM93: “I mean of course in terms of speed, it looks like Yamaha, they have something more in the second half of the season. In terms of consistent, Andrea is always there. I mean, he is very consistent and I mean there will be a strong opponent. We start with zero points at the first race, no favourites, everybody equal but yes the second part of the season has been different. Yamaha in the second part has been very strong but in the end we take the second part of the season, I take more points than them so it was more difficult. We suffer in some races but when we suffer we finish in second place, so it is time to work, time to improve and wintertime we will see the level and our opponents will answer us if we will be in the correct shape or not”.
MV12: “We knew our potential, there were many races where we were 0.5 – 0.6 from the victory so for me it was very frustrating because I lost everything on the first few laps. We are trying to improve the start, it is very important for next year and one of the main objectives of the pre-season to improve the start. After the start, we also need a little more power but anyway, we keep working in the same way and many races ago and we will try to keep that momentum even for the pre-season and for the next year of races. We know the way to understand the bike and to go fast. It took a long time but we understand it in a good way”.
The final race of the season is Valencia, which will be next up. A party to finish and no doubt a battle. Be sure to tune in!
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