VIÑALES BEST IS YET TO COME
WORLD EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW After dominating winter testing, even Rossi is worried about the pace of his new team-mate. MCN spoke to Maverick Viñales to find out what makes him so fast
Valentino Rossi has already tipped his Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales as a title favourite - and after last week’s domination of the three-day Sepang test the rest of the world is starting to believe the hype.
Last year the 22-year-old Spaniard seriously impressed on the Suzuki, taking his maiden victory at Silverstone, but ever since switching to Yamaha for 2017; his form has been electric.
In the three tests he’s completed on the Yamaha M1 he has finished fastest in them all, comfortably outpacing Rossi.
MCN sat down with the young Spaniard for an exclusive interview last week at Sepang where he not only set the fastest time of the three-day test, but also showed impressive consistency over longer runs. And even more worrying for his rivals is that the new Yamaha signing feels that he is still only scratching the surface.
“There’s still a lot to improve, especially in my riding style. I can take more profit from the bike; I’m not even taking the best lines yet. The bike has improved a lot since the last time, and every time we go to the track we seem to make a big step forwards.”
With each timesheet-topping lap in testing comes ever more pressure for the young Spaniard. For most racers being in a garage alongside Rossi and being widely tipped as a contender for the Motogp crown would be a huge burden. But for Viñales, instead of being weighed down by the pressure, he seems to feed off it.
“I always work well under stress, it helps me to push my limits and go even faster,” he admitted. “It’s not the same pressure as when you’re fighting for fifth or sixth as it is for trying to win the championship. The stress is two or three times higher, and you have to be even more focused and even more passionate about it.
“But inside the team, there’s no more pressure this year. Every team tries to keep the rider calm as that is the key to going fast. They want to win, and the atmosphere in the team is really calm and normal. It’s more about yourself; how hard you push yourself. That’s where pressure comes from.”
And while it would be easy for Viñales to be intimidated by the presence of Valentino Rossi on the other side of the garage, his relationship with the nine-time world champion seems to be good. At least for now...
“The days we spend together are good – relaxed and easy. He’s quite friendly with me, even though I was thinking that now we’re team-mates it might mean we’d be a little more separate. But the relationship continues to be good, and I’m quite pleased about that. I have a lot of respect for him.
“On the track, we still have to push and to fight each other, to be the first Yamaha – but outside the track it’s important that we continue with this strong relationship. It’s good for the media, and for the people working with us inside the team, so we have to continue this.”
It’s clear that there is pressure on Viñales from all directions. He remains under no illusion that he still has a lot to learn, but he is also clear after a successful Sepang test about his goals for the season ahead – nothing less than the top prize.
“The Motogp world championship is the target. When you make a move to Movistar Yamaha, one of the best teams in the Motogp paddock, you know your target has to be to win the championship. You can’t be sitting around thinking that the target is anything less – you have to have it clear in your mind.”
‘At Yamaha you know your target has to be to win the championship’ MAVERICK VIÑALES
Viñales gets animated with MCN’S Motogp reporter SEE THE VIDEO Viñales face-to- face with Rossi online now www.youtube. com/ motorcyclene wsdotcom