From the moment Maverick Vi?ales first stepped off Suzuki's all new GSX-RR MotoGP machine at a post season test at Valencia in 2014, it was clear to the Catalan's new crew chief that the Japanese factory had a standout talent on its hands.

"When a rider takes off his helmet you can understand how much margin he has: if he's doing it naturally or forcing it too much," says Jose Manuel Cazeaux, speaking to Crash.net. Vi?ales' had just experienced somewhere in the region of 250bhp for the first time around Valencia's 14 bends. And it didn't faze him one bit.

"The way he was controlling the throttle from the first time on a MotoGP bike, the way he adapted to the carbon brakes so quick, we knew that he was special."

For a factory with limited resources when compared to its rivals, Suzuki recognised it had struck gold in landing one of grand prix's biggest talents. With a bike still in its formative months, it was the factory's responsibility to give Vi?ales the tools to do what Cazeaux and other members of the tight-knit group quickly learned what he could.

Thus Vi?ales' debut MotoGP win at Silverstone on an autumnal day in September - 22 months on from that first test - was more a relief that an obligation had been fulfilled, than surprise at a first dry weather win for the marque in the top class since 2000. "For us it was like an obligation to find the way to give him a bike that allows him to win," says Cazeaux. "When you have the chance to have one of the good ones you have to take it."

And take it they did. From possessing a bike whose sweet handling chassis was undermined by a serious lack of top end in 2015, Suzuki made sizable strides over the winter months to arrive in Qatar with a fairly well rounded contender. A new engine at once eradicated the speed deficit, while a liking for Michelin's new control tyres brought Vi?ales strong results in preseason.

At face value, regular top sixes peppered with the occasional podium were the aim. But anyone working with Vi?ales, or indeed stood within earshot of his daily press debriefs understands the ex-Moto3 world champion would not stop short of this. It has been managing this expectation and desire to fight at the very front that has been one of Cazeaux's challenges.

"As I said before, he's one of those 'aliens.' When you have one of them, he's expecting to win and when there is something that is stopping him, not only the bike, I mean also maybe riding technique he wants to do everything quick to be there in the top.

"He knows he has that talent, but when it's not coming, sometimes he gets angry. More than angry, it's a kind of frustration. He knows he has the potential. So we work a lot in parallel, on his riding style, his technique, improving in every detail, and at the same time the bike."

It's this continuous working on the little details - aided by Cazeaux's previous experience as a data technician in the factory Ducati squad - that has endeared him to Vi?ales, who has rarely found his crew chief resting on their laurels.

Indeed it underlines the strength of their relationship that Vi?ales attempted to bring his current crew across to the Movistar Yamaha garage, when locked in negotiations to replace Jorge Lorenzo for 2017. This, Vi?ales explained, was a detail that slowed the making of his decision.

"Honestly the teamwork made me feel, 'What do I do?' I was trying for sure to bring everyone to Yamaha. Everyone," Vi?ales told Crash.net after free practice in Misano. "Finally the team also felt the same as me. They feel so good here that they [decided to] stay."

On working alongside Cazeaux, Vi?ales added, "It's his first job (as crew chief) but he has a lot of experience on the electronics and this is important."

"Also, in one way he's like me. He always tries to improve. Even if this morning [Friday at Misano], for example, we finished third, we spent one hour looking at the telemetry, looking where we can improve, look to find that little bit more.

"Even in Silverstone in FP3 I was so fast. I did my best lap with four laps on the tyre and I was feeling that I could be even faster. I sat down with him and [said] 'We need to improve here, here and here.' We never gave up. One practice to the other we always try to improve a lot."

Aside from his proven ability, it's Vi?ales' steadfast focus that stands out. Just seconds after being quizzed on the feelings experienced in the wake of his Silverstone triumph, he launches into a full dissection of the Suzuki's performance on hard tyres in FP2. It appears he is in little danger of getting carried away.

You may call it youthful exuberance, but Cazeaux explains how this continual search "to achieve perfection" leads Vi?ales to be too "lap time dependent" when working through free practice, an area in which he can only improve in future months and years.

"Like many riders, he's like lap time dependent, the position depends more than lap time," explains Cazeaux. "So if he doesn't see himself in the top three or the first one, there is something wrong. This is good because we try to achieve perfection, but with experience he will learn also to stay calm.

"In some conditions you are with a full tank, for example, with the race distance on the tyres. You are lapping half a second slower than one with less than half a tank of fuel with new tyres. It can be a huge disadvantage but in reality you are going faster than him.

"So lap time analysis is not trivial and you cannot do it in the moment that things are happening. You have to stop, to see which tyres people are using, to know how much fuel they have in their bikes. So the truth is in the race. You have to patient, to believe in yourself."

It's hard to be overly critical of a 21-year old for possessing an insatiable hunger. It's that, along with the talent Cazeaux details that leaves you in little doubt that, while not the finished article at present, we can count - with some certainty - his rider among the very top talents MotoGP has to offer.

 

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