What a difference a year makes. Leaving Qatar twelve months ago, Maverick Viñales appeared to be in a near insurmountable position of strength, but come 2018’s final preseason MotoGP test and the Catalan is still seeking ‘something more’ from the set-up of his Yamaha M1 after another frustrating showing at Losail. 

Viñales admitted he and his Movistar Yamaha team had “lost the way” on Friday, the second of three days testing in Qatar, which in turn led to a loss of concentration and an inability to ride in a way that is suited to the current M1.

‘Difficult’ and ‘tough’ were two words used by the 23-year old on Saturday night, after a late change allowed him to push and lap considerably quicker than before. Viñales was fifth fastest, his best lap 0.442s slower than satellite Yamaha runner and overall pace setter Johann Zarco.

Having lost all feeling on the front, the ex-Moto3 world champion reverted to his settings from Thursday, when he ended the day fastest, for a late time attack. His final time was respectable. Yet Viñales’ pace is lagging some way behind that set by his major rivals.

“It's very difficult and tough,” he said on Saturday. “Because you know, before the last 40 minutes I was riding at 50%. I couldn't push more. Every time I pushed, I was going out of the track. You know it's a bit confusing for me.

“Finally, luckily, we did a big change, we came back to the bike of the first day when I did the 1m 55.0s which was looking quite good, and I could push a little bit more.

“Sure if I had more time I could go much faster, because I felt like I left a lot of tenths on the hot lap. But anyway, it's quite strange for me. Now it looks like we lost one day, one-and-a-half days to try other things.

“We have to pay a lot of attention to the things we changed. Because nothing changed on the bike, just it's the same bike as the first day. The second day we tried other things and we lost the way. So my feeling was that I could not push.

“Even now I feel like I can push more, I still can't give my best. So what I want for the race is to give my best, give my 100%, then I can do good things. So I will look for that.

“But without losing the way, because I think in this test we lost the way, and for sure I did many, many laps. I didn't understand what was going on, and finally you lose the concentration, the feeling. So I was quite happy to at least be in the same lap times as last year at the test, and let's see for the race.”

Viñales’ comments across each of the three preseason tests in 2018 have been akin to those he muttered in the second half of last season. A lack of answers is a clear frustration for a rider with such determination and focus.

“Everyone tries to give their best and try to bring the best ideas, try to bring their 100% to the team. But finally we finished with the same bike that I started with on the first day, and I could go 1m 54.4s.

“And I think if I had that bike yesterday, today is another lap time, really another lap time. Because I could focus more and improve the front. I did the lap time without trusting the front, because I got such a bad feeling the two exits before that it was impossible to push at my best. So I think we are going to try to not lose the way.”

After nine exhaustive days of testing in 2018, does he feel ready to race? “Yes, for sure,” he said. “For sure we still have things. Maybe not to try, but to set up. And for sure it's not the best set-up for my riding style, and we still need to improve a lot the bike. I'm not riding at my best.

“So when it's like that, it means something is missing, and I think right now at the end, for sure if I do another exit, another time attack, the lap time will go down. But anyway, we still need something more.”


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