It may only be the second round of the season, but Maverick Viñales has already pronounced that a championship challenge will be “difficult” as he encountered some age-old issues during Saturday’s wet MotoGP qualifying in Argentina.

The Catalan could qualify no higher than ninth, 1.8s back of pole sitter Jack Miller, as he found his Yamaha M1 extremely limited in acceleration in wet conditions. His opponents, Viñales conceded, “are on another level” in this regard.

The comments come after Viñales seemingly reversed his preseason of woe with a set-up change on Saturday in Qatar. Harder spring settings had allowed him to brake aggressively, and he arrived at the Termas de Rio Hondo Circuit believing he had re-discovered some of the feeling he encountered during his stirring start to 2017.

The M1 isn’t behaving badly in the dry, he feels, and the 23-year old is still confident of a podium challenge, should Sunday’s race take place in dry conditions. When the rain was falling, however, was another matter, he said.

“Well, it was very difficult. Honestly we’ve been struggling a lot,” said Viñales. “It’s been the same as last year, especially in acceleration. The bike is actually at a really good level when braking and the corner speed.

“But finally when I start accelerating it’s difficult because our opponents right now are on another level, especially in the wet. So it’s difficult to fight for the title with this disadvantage.”

Does he feel the M1’s electronics set-up is still to blame for the acceleration deficit? “Yeah, sure,” he said. “The electronics and also the bike. It’s not at the level that I want to be.”

Would he say it has improved in the wet since last year? “No. It’s similar. Last year was really good braking and entering the corner but as soon as we touched the gas it was a different bike so we have the same problems.”

On Friday, Viñales had called for Yamaha to plan a test between rounds to try and resolve these issues. Asked whether he had discussed this further with the factory, he said, “Yeah, we have the test after the Jerez race on Monday. Then we’re going to try and improve. Then on the race weekend it’s really difficult to try and improve because there is no time. Right now there is rain and then it’s dry. You cannot prepare two different bikes just in case you crash.

“Let’s see. What I know is that we need to make steps forward. Like this it’s so difficult to fight for the title.”

On his feeling in the dry, Viñales added, “Obviously, yes [I hope for a dry race.] A dry race and I feel I could be more strong. I can fight at least to be on the podium. But a wet race that would be impossible.

“I hope because all weekend I felt good in the dry. Yesterday we saw some positive points which helped me to go fast. Even with the soft tyres I can go fast. We’re going to try the best. We’re going to try the best.”

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