Maverick Viñales was relieved to end the day without scuffmarks on his leathers after he risked everything to qualify his Suzuki GSX-RR in fifth position – a place ahead of team-mate Aleix Espargaro – for the Spanish MotoGP race at Jerez.
A regular challenger for a front row starting slot in each of the previous three rounds in 2016, Viñales was unable to get within three quarters of a second of the pole position time, but admitted to exhaling loudly when he saw his name inside the top six.
“[I'm] Happy, because finally we saved the qualifying,” said the 21-year old. “Honestly, I was feeling really good with the bike. But finally I make one lap where I finish or I crash. I finished, so this was good!
“I'm happy because we are working well. In FP3 we were really good, and I feel very confident for tomorrow. Just I need to make a good start and follow the top riders.”
The Spaniard used Friday to test Suzuki's altered 2016 chassis back-to-back with the '15 version, the frame that he used in the first three races of the season. After analysing the differences, the Catalan revealed “we choose the 2015, because we have more experience and data.”
Viñales believes a top six finish could be possible and went on to state how Michelin's hardening of the rear tyre construction has taken away some of great feeling the Suzuki enjoyed at the beginning of the year.
“Today if I could have grip on the rear, for sure I could [lap in the 1m 38s]. Because I feel on a really good mood, and I think I can take out from my bike 200%. I think I did my lap time, but it was not enough.
“Anyway, we need to get again this set up that we had in Qatar, and also in Argentina that was really good. They changed a little bit the tires, so also for us it's difficult to recover this information.”
On his Saturday performance as a whole, Viñales also added that he was encountering issues with rear grip on corner entry, not exit, as many other riders had said.
“I was struggling a lot with the rear grip, more than on the exit, it was going into the corners, I was sliding all the time. So I could not push also my bike at 100%, because I think our bike can be much more at the top.
“Anyway, we work hard for tomorrow, I think we are going to find a good set up. In FP3 I was feeling good, so I hope tomorrow the temperature is not so high, and we can have a little bit more grip.
“I think that if we can be into the top six, it will be perfect. But if I can make a good start, and I can follow the leading group, I think maybe we can have a surprise, because we know that with the Michelin, sometimes you can get one tire that is incredible, so if we have the luck, it can be really good.”