Even for Massimo Meregalli, team boss of two of this generation's brightest talents for many a year, Maverick Viñales' supreme ability to adapt at speed came as a surprise. Half a day into the Valencia test in November and the Catalan was already lapping as fast as anyone.
Two more days of testing in Sepang followed the two in Valencia and from there Meregalli was able to conclude that Viñales – now 22-years old - is “really ready” for an assault on the MotoGP title.
“He's fast, is calm and clever in finding the things that he likes,” he said, echoing general director Lin Jarvis' earlier claims that Yamaha's 2017 line up of the Catalan and nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi “couldn't be better.”
“My judgement now is based on two tests,” said Meregalli while attending his team's presentation in Madrid last week.
“I can tell you now that he is ready. It is not enough to judge a rider after two tests but if I have to, I would say [that he is ready]. What impressed me most was his calm, he was fast. He could get the feeling on a completely different bike in half a day.
“Also the way that he answered to the crew chief was really sure. [He said,] 'This is better, this is worse.' That really impressed me. The direction was exactly the same as Vale.
“For me, OK, he could be hiding the pressure, because we didn't feel it or see it [at the tests] but for me, at least on the first day, he moved [forward]. He jumped on the bike that Jorge won on the day before and he was fast.
“All the riders have their own stronger point. He is really ready. He's fast, is calm and clever in finding the things that he likes. I am really optimistic and I'm curious to see the first test with all the others.”
Meregalli also commented on Rossi's off-season demeanour. “I'm seeing him more relaxed,” he said when the pointing to the contrasts to the same launch a year ago, a time when the Italian's simmering resentment toward team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was clear for all to see.
On Yamaha's 2017 M1, Meregalli went on to explain how a two-day test in Sepang brought about more positive results than Valencia.
In the tropical Malaysian heat, there was less pressure, and both riders provided identical feedback on the components that would take the package forward. From Meregalli's comments, it appears the new bike carries excellent stability in fast turns, while retaining supreme handling characteristics - all reasons to view the year ahead positively.
“OK, Valentino started with the new bike in Valencia,” recalled Meregalli. “At the beginning probably it was the end of the season, and maybe in that track he couldn't understand. We also did another bike. So the impression in Valencia was not as good as it was in Sepang. In Sepang we spent two days without any pressure.
“We could compare the '16 bike, the '17 bike and both rider they liked the '17 prototype bike. For me the most important thing is that both riders liked the same items.
“They tested the same things but maybe in a different way. But they always choose the same. So that's the really important thing for our Japanese [engineers] to develop the bike.
“Basically one of our stronger points is the stability in the faster corners. Probably to have this kind of stability we have to lose a bit of handling. Now also with the new chassis, it seems they could gain.
“We didn't lose any stability in the faster corner and it's better in handling. That area is an area that we would like to improve again. The first impression they both got in Malaysia was good with this.”