MotoGP Thailand: Vinales victory chance, 'I have nothing to lose'
Can Yamaha cause an upset - and perhaps even end their record MotoGP win drought - in Sunday's inaugural Thailand MotoGP?
The pair were third (Rossi) and fourth (Vinales) during final practice, when the only riders ahead of them - Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez - either fitted a new hard tyre at the end of the session (Dovizioso) or were using the soft rear tyre (Marquez) which Michelin advise against for the race.
Meanwhile, Rossi and Vinales both stuck with the same set of hard tyres front and rear from beginning to end of FP4.
"I think the best free practice was FP4 for me," Vinales confirmed. "Especially the last outing, I think I felt really good on the bike, riding 1'31 low which I think is going to be the pace for tomorrow.
"Still there is a little bit of margin to improve, and I will try tomorrow in the warm-up. But anyway, I felt quite competitive, maybe the weekend that I have felt closest to the top on the rhythm."
Are you confident to fight for victory?
"For sure I'm confident," Vinales replied. "I feel good. In FP4, I felt really good. And I think we can still improve. So let's see if tomorrow, we can do another step, and I can be even more competitive.
"I have nothing to lose. I have to start at the maximum, and try then to save the tyre. I'm good at saving the tyre, but it doesn't mean very much if you are not in the front.
"So first we are going to try to be in the front, fighting there, and then we will see."
This weekend's form has been quite a transformation for a factory that hasn’t even been on the podium for the past four events and had a mediocre test at Buriram in February.
While Rossi says little has changed on his bike and that it simply works better with the tyres at this circuit, Vinales has made a big change to the weight balance of his M1.
"I'd never tried this kind of set-up," he said. "Tomorrow [in warm-up], we are going to try two options, one that is two or three more steps, and one that is in between, so let's see if going in that direction I can be fast. Especially regarding for the race.
"Maybe for one lap, I cannot be fast enough, but maybe for the race I can be much more constant and precise. This weekend we were working hard for the race, also to have a good braking point to overtake is going to be important."
And can the new set-up help avoid the early race struggles that have ruined his chances so often this year?
"I think so. Especially with the hard tyre. Because I can warm it up well, especially the left side, which is the problematic side, and I'm fast through sector two and three. It's really important to be fast there to catch the front riders, to have the opportunity to overtake in the last corner, or then in the back straight.
"So I think so. In FP4, I was P1, P1 in the first laps, and that was important."
As well as the technical changes, there also seems to have been a concerted effort to improve the atmosphere on the Vinales side of the Movistar Yamaha garage, after the Spaniard was quoted in a recent interview as saying he felt lonely.
"Yeah, for sure. We spoke in the last period, and I think it's done. We all want to be competitive, we all want to improve, so I think this year is going to help a lot to understand these feelings and to be even stronger for the next ones.
"Anyway, as I said, we are trying to discover new lines to try to work, and the one [set-up] we did this weekend was a good one, and it's something we asked for months ago. But anyway, we are doing it now, and I hope that it works tomorrow for the race, and then in Japan. Because it's important to compare it in two tracks, not just in one.
"The atmosphere is … I like it. I've been pretty close with the team. The overseas races, you need to be more close with the team and that's for sure helping us to be more calm, to be maybe more clever. "