Maverick Viñales labelled the first day of MotoGP testing of 2017 as “better than expected” after placing third in the time sheets, and insisted that working on race pace – not setting a blistering time – remains his chief focus.
The 22-year old's growing maturity was on show on Monday at Sepang, as he joked that the same Viñales would have felt distraught at placing behind two other riders a year ago. Instead his day's work amounted to 'a great job', as he completed three runs of more than 20 laps.
Both Movistar Yamaha team-mates completed a test in the tropical Malaysian heat in November, a test which Viñales used to post an eye-catching lap time. Two months on, however, and the aim is different: to find the M1's absolute limits, and improve pace over race distance.
“It was good,” said the Catalan, who ended the day 0.449s from Casey Stoner's fastest time.
“It was better than I expect because I know the first day here in Malaysia is always difficult. You need to get used to the bike. Honestly from the first laps I was feeling good, fast, so we could work quite early. Today we did a good job, I think. We tried many things. I'm looking forward to tomorrow.
“At the moment I [still] have to bring the bike to 100 percent. Still I think for sure I haven't taken all the profit of the bike. First I have to understand how to do this. Anyway I want to improve a little bit the braking point, because it's important in the last laps to fight, to gain positions in the first laps.
“We want to be ready. For one lap we know we have the speed. But we need to have it for 20. So we need to work on that. We are doing our job. Today I was feeling good. I did three sets and did 23 laps in each set. I was feeling that we did a good job, as it was the first day, and it was difficult to get the feeling on the bike.
“Still it's five days that I'm on the bike so I don't know. Maybe it will take all the tests. Every race, I want to feel better on the bike. I will know if the bike slides here what the bike needs. In that area I'm quite lost because I don't know.
“I am talking with all the staff and today I'm quite surprised we were working really good. The lap times, I'm quite happy. Last year I'd have been disappointed that I'm third. But today I said, 'Maverick, we did a great job' and it's only the first day.”
Speaking of the differences between this Sepang test, and that which was conducted in November, Viñales continued, “Well, when I came here in November I was focussed on making the lap time.
“Honestly I was all the time trying to make the lap time. I was not focussed so much on the work. Now we're working. In November I had a really good package. Already from Valencia I was feeling great. Imagine coming here, feeling great. You ride fast.
“But anyway, we tried many things. We know we have a lot of potential. Now we are trying to find the best package that we can do. It's difficult to make the lap time. We have to try many, many things. When you have the good things you have to use it twice.”
While October's race result here didn't suggest as much, Viñales can count on Sepang as one of his stronger tracks. Had it not been for rain, the Catalan is certain he could have challenged for victory aboard Suzuki's GSX-RR.
Asked to compare the differing feels between the Suzuki and M1, Viñales pointed to the Yamaha's consistency over 20 laps, stating “with the Yamaha you can ride fast all the time.”
“This track for the Suzuki was really good. I remember in FP3 I was first position. Then in the warm-up in the dry I was in first position. This track is really good for the Suzuki. You know, long corners, [high] speed. But anyway with the Yamaha you can ride all the time fast.
“You know, 20 laps, you can go fast. What I feel is that still we have a lot of potential and I'm already feeling in the same level than I was last year. So let's see. We have to get a good package now in Malaysia. It's just the first test. We need to think that we'll be ready in Qatar, you know?”
Viñales ended the day five places and just over half a second clear of team-mate Valentino Rossi.