Maverick Vinales took an incredibly surprising but impressive victory in Qatar.
MotoGP is back in full swing at last! After 126 days of a cold, boring winter with no racing and many lockdowns, we finally have MotoGP back in our lives to keep us entertained and our racing passion fulfilled with chaotic two-wheeled battles and scraps on our television screens. We hoped and we prayed for some good racing under the lights of Losail and that’s exactly what MotoGP delivered with many majorly unexpected results.
I believe the biggest surprise we saw was a dominant win from Maverick Vinales, the 2013 Moto3 World Champion struggled a lot in 2020 and looked to be a shadow of his former self enduring a season on par with his rookie season results-wise, he knew he had to come back and impress this year with his promotion to the #1 rider position in the Monster Energy Yamaha Team after Valentino Rossi and Fabio Quartararo swapped places. The incredibly quick Quartararo joining the team meant Vinales really had to step his game up to not look like the underdog against the French youngster, this is not forgetting Franco Morbidelli who was the fastest Yamaha in 2020 finishing the season in P2 overall with 3 wins and 5 podiums to his name.
Maverick was in danger of becoming Yamaha’s third-fastest rider last year before a dramatic self-destruction from Fabio helped elevate Vinales into P6 in the championship as the second-fastest Yamaha overall. We saw Vinales struggle many times in 2020 with his race starts, he seemed to be on fire on the Friday and Saturday Free Practice and Qualifying sessions finishing in the top positions before going back into his shell on race day after a bad start would force him to settle for P10 overall battling outside of the points desperately trying to make up ground before eventually coming good in the latter of the races making up positions.
Throughout the winter Vinales spent time with sports specialists and therapists to understand what is going on and how he can change his racing mindset and race at the front consistently, what many don’t realise is how mentally demanding the sport is, if you turn up to a race and you are not in the right headspace you may as well go home because you will not be fast. We saw this previously with Jorge Lorenzo who was nearly paralysed in his accident at Assen 2019, he returned from injury with fear and nervousness about him, he didn’t want to get injured in that way again, sadly this would eventually force him into retirement at the end of the season along with some other factors.
The Yamaha under the lights.
Even before the 2021 season had begun Vinales felt he was in a really good position mentally, possibly even the best he has ever been after getting married and conceiving a child with his wife, he can be quoted as saying, “This year I have everything I need and calmness in my life so I can concentrate on riding and to use my potential because I have been far away from my maximum potential. I feel very positive and have a good feeling from within myself, this is the year I will have a great year.”
This belief that he can use his full potential and have a great year showed during testing as he put in the work and graft to fix some of the issues he had last year including his race starts. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year and throughout testing he held the record for the most practice starts in all classes, he used every opportunity he had to perfect his race launch. You would see him every time he left the pit box or finish a session slow to a stop and once again practice and refine his race start so that come Sunday there would be no issues. Throughout the weekend Vinales had incredible race pace and was comfortable in all areas, even qualifying in P3 on the front row.
There was proof in the pudding that this was working for him after he completed the first race lap in P6 behind Quartararo and a quartet of Ducati’s who were able to use their outright speed and acceleration to arrive in P1, P2, P3 and P4 by turn one of lap one with Jorge Martin coming from P14 to P4 in just over 200 metres. He raced one of the best races of his career to take an incredibly dominant win at Qatar winning by more than a second to Johann Zarco behind him, this new regenerated Vinales 2.0 will be feeling energised and even more positive that his winter preparation methods are coming to fruition, only one race has been raced so far but if he can keep this up there is no reason why he isn’t a true title contender.
Featured images – www.motogp.com