Maverick Viñales says he feels ready to race now after the Movistar Yamaha rider climbed to the top of the timesheets on the second day of the MotoGP test at Phillip Island in Australia.
Viñales was four tenths clear of Wednesday pacesetter Marc Marquez following a lap in 1m 28.847s as the Spanish rider continues to make waves during pre-season testing on the YZR-M1.
The 22-year-old has quickly gelled with the 2017 Yamaha and although Viñales concedes he feels extra pressure to perform this year after joining Valentino Rossi in the factory team, he feels comfortable with the weight of expectation on his shoulders and says he is already in race mode.
“At the moment I feel yes [ready to race], but you never know: maybe we arrive for the race and we struggle, but at the moment I feel ready. But still I have to adapt my riding style a little bit and sometimes I am too aggressive and I move a lot the bike, so I cannot make perfectly all the laps. Still there are margins to improve, but I feel quite ready,” Viñales said.
“When you have that bike, everyone says you are that [one of the favourites.] Also Valentino did some great lap times yesterday and today also did a good pace. What I can say is the bike is great, the team has a lot of experience and are working and the bike is there, so the rider needs to ride fast and consistent.
“When I feel like this it means you can win and it is only motivation to work hard and try to push yourself really high. For me it is better because I know that I am working for one objective, the one that I dream of, so for sure I will be more motivated,” he added.
“Every year I improve a little bit and every year I feel more intelligent; I feel more what the bike needs and the experience also helps a lot. Every year I feel better and better.”
Viñales, who topped the leaderboard at the Sepang test, followed Rossi on track on Wednesday and says he is always eager to learn from his more experienced rivals.
“I see some things and in sector four he is really fast and I see some lines that I take profit; I always try to learn, the same with riding with Marc [Marquez] sometimes and with Cal [Crutchlow] sometimes – everything that can help. For sure I would like to see where the others are,” said Viñales, who said there was a clear difference between the acceleration of his Yamaha compared to the Hondas.
“What I see is that we have a really good acceleration and we are stronger, but Honda is constant all the time on the lap times; Marc is constant all the time and we need to work hard on that part. Marc is constant but the others are not so constant. Cal [Crutchlow] is fast so I think he will start much better than last year, so dangerous, dangerous – he is fast!”
Viñales has been concentrating on the 2017 chassis and highlighted improved rear grip as one of the main benefits on the new bike. He was happy with his race pace on Thursday, but has stressed the need to prolong rear grip over the final part of a full race distance.
“We've been working with the new one and we've made some good steps working on the handling. This track especially you need to have a great handling bike because you have many changes; maybe in Qatar we will make one step to ride the new chassis. You need to try in the long run also because it is difficult to see the difference in five laps. Rear grip is a positive point [with new bike],” he said.
“We did a good job today, not only for the 1'28s, but also for the 1'29 lows and 1'29 mediums. We did a lot of laps on the tyre but still we have to improve, the rear grip especially, from lap 10, 15 to the end of the race. With 27 laps on the tyre I did 1'30.0, so I can be quite happy. One bike has a little bit more grip, the other has better handling, so it's very difficult and we have to find one compromise.”
Yamaha tested a new fairing at Sepang with winglets built into the design to avoid contravening the rules that stipulate that winglets must not protrude from the bike. Viñales has been using the older fairing at Phillip Island but revealed he may switch between the two versions at different circuits this season.
“We are riding with the old fairing, yesterday and today, and we feel better on that track,” he said. “Malaysia was different and maybe in some tracks we will have to use the old and some tracks the new.”