Maverick Vinales believes Yamaha will be strong throughout MotoGP’s flyaway campaign, but anticipates a difficult weekend at Motegi should the weather play a part.
This weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix is the first of three back–to–back races across the Pacific region, and serves as a crucial portion of the world championship battle with 75 points up for grabs in quick succession.
Cast 28 point adrift after a difficult Aragon weekend, in which he finished fourth, Vinales is confident of being able to mount a fightback during the flyaway races after topping the timesheets at the Phillip Island and Sepang tests during the pre–season.
However, with rain forecast, Vinales is aware he could be in for a tough weekend having struggled in wet conditions with the 2017 YZR–M1 this season.
“We have to keep working on the bike, especially for the race,” said Vinales, who finished third on the Suzuki at Motegi in 2016.
“This weekend is going to be difficult. If it doesn’t rain, we are going to give our best to try to bring the bike at the maximum.
“Last year I felt quite strong here, especially in the race, so let’s see. I’m curious to start and for sure push at the 100 percent.
“For sure I prefer that (three races back–to–back). All the years I’ve been quite strong on the overseas, and this year too we tried already.
“In Australia I felt really good, in Malaysia also. So I have more positive points in Australia and Malaysia, but let’s see.
“I think our bike works quite good in these three races, so let us start.”
Rossi: No team orders yet
Valentino Rossi admits there has been no plans from Yamaha yet to utilise team orders to aid his team–mate’s title bid, but has not ruled it out.
The Italian – who finished fifth at Aragon just 23 days after breaking his right leg – is 58 points off of standings leader Marc Marquez in fifth spot with just four races left.
With Yamaha’s championship hopes now resting on Vinales, Rossi made it clear team orders are not something normally used by the Japanese manufacturer, but concedes he could offer assistance should Vinales cut his 28–point deficit in the championship.
“At this moment, no,” said Rossi to Autosport.com, when asked about team orders
“Usually Yamaha don’t do. But it depends very much on the championship. If it’s very close, maybe it’s possible.
“It’s an interesting situation because all three factories (Ducati, Yamaha and Honda) have a second rider who is fast and maybe can help the first rider for the championship.”