Editor's note: Three back-to-back weekends of Asia-Pacific flyaways have proved to be punishing in terms of disrupted sleep patterns. As a result, I am reverting to writing a brief set of Subscriber notes for Sepang, with a full race report to follow by the end of the day tomorrow.
In these subscriber notes:
- How Maverick Viñales won
- What Marc Márquez coming second means for MotoGP
- Fabio Quartararo's weaknesses, to add to his strengths
- Why it was Dovizioso, not Ducati, that was a problem for Valentino Rossi
- Why Rossi is a problem for Yamaha
- The clashes between Alex Rins and Jack Miller, and Joan Mir and Johann Zarco, whether the punishment fit the crime, and the role the track played
- The future of Johann Zarco
Fabio Quartararo may have got all the headlines at Sepang on Friday and Saturday, but it was obvious to anyone who studied the timesheets that Maverick Viñales had the best pace in practice, and by a significant margin. Viñales' pace in practice was two to three tenths better than anyone else.
In the past, however, converting that pace into podiums proved difficult for Viñales. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider was getting poor starts, and struggling in the early laps. But he has made a huge step forward in the past few races, especially since the Austrian round at the Red Bull Ring. Viñales was on the podium at Silverstone and Misano, fourth in Aragon, third in Buriram, fourth in Motegi, and led for most of the race in Phillip Island before crashing out.
Winning at Sepang felt like a double reward, after crashing out on the final lap in Phillip Island. "After the Australia crash I felt I won the race, in my body I felt that, because I already made the attack in my head but I crashed," Viñales said. "Here I’ve been very consistent all the weekend, with a used tire, new tire, in the time attack. So I knew if I can get the first place, I had the chance to push, push, and push and try to open a gap."
That was exactly what Viñales did. He got a solid start, slotted in behind Jack Miller for the first few corners, used the corner speed and turning of the Yamaha to get past at Turn 11, then push to create a gap as soon as possible. He had a brief moment of doubt when he saw Marc Márquez was behind him - "****! He's coming! I said to myself," Viñales told Spanish media. But his pace was relentless. He broke Márquez, even when the Repsol Honda rider managed to eke a few tenths back on him, and went on to win in imperious fashion.
What has been the difference for Viñales in the second half of the season? The clues were there after he refused to spend any time testing the carbon swingarm and new exhaust after Misano. No more changes, just focus on setup, and getting the bike right.
Stick in the mud
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