Ninth place usually wouldn't satisfy the lofty standards Maverick Viñales sets for himself, but the first day of MotoGP free practice in Brno was different. A change in strategy so race pace was his main focus filled the 21-year with optimism.
The second half of the Austrian Grand Prix was evidence, he said, that his Suzuki GSX-RR suffered most when grip had disappeared. Thus he spent the majority of FP1 and FP2 working on race set-up with used tyres.
The results were positive. Although 0.7s off Marc Marquez's fastest time, Viñales was regularly mentioned by the class' leading riders as a potential player for major honours on Sunday. His pace was fast and consistent.
“Today we were working on race pace,” said Viñales. “In the last race the final laps were important and we didn't test for that all weekend. We tried it a little bit and not a lot. We already tried it this morning and then this afternoon the pace was already faster.
“I must say that I'm quite happy. I'm disappointed because I always want to be at the top but I'm happy because even if I didn't use the last soft tyre I'm into the top ten. Then I'm quite close in the pace to the top.
“I need to say that tomorrow I can be toward the front with two time attacks. We'll see. Anyway, today we did a good job. The team have a lot of information to work for Sunday. Today we use different strategy. Let's see if it works.
“I already did with the soft [rear tyre] the race distance. We're going to try with the soft. Finally we have a little more grip. The damage of the tyre is quite similar. If you can gain two more tenths then the soft is good.
“For the first laps [in Austria] I had no problems. I was following the first riders. Then in the middle of the racep when the grip was down you really need to ride and I had to control the gas and the brakes. If now I can get used to this then in the race I can go faster.”
Viñales stated his speed stemmed from Michelin's bringing of two new rear tyres with a less stiff construction – a facet that limited rear-wheel spinning.
Also, Brno's layout features few low-gear corners that lead onto long straights. The Suzuki comes out of the majority of corners in third or fourth gear, at speed where his issues with edge grip are less critical.
“[The rear tyre] helps a lot. I think they make our bike more stable. Last year Brno was quite difficult with our bike. It was moving a lot under acceleration. Now that it's more stable I can use its potential more.
“[There is] Less spinning. The corners are faster, you carry more speed and you don't need to use stop, brake and then open the gas full. You're going more slowly to open the gas.
On the riders he rates as the biggest challengers to the podium positions on Sunday, Viñales can see both factory Yamaha M1s are well prepared.
“Yeah, I think here the Yamahas are really good here but we were not so far. We did 56 mediums and that was when the tyre was toward the end of the race. It was doing 56.6s. It means that we have already improved a lot from last year but still we have to improve a little bit more if we want to fight with the top guys.”