Maverick Vinales says after rediscovering his pace and rhythm on the Yamaha he can fight for the rostrum but feels development work is still needed at the 2019 season opener in Qatar.

The Spanish rider produced the perfect debut with Yamaha two years ago when he claimed pole position and victory at the Losail International Circuit but last year could only manage sixth place which triggered a tough second season.

COTA MotoGP #2 - Last time in the saddle at COTA

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After a breakthrough victory at Phillip Island towards the end of 2018, Vinales feels he’s recaptured his race-winning feeling on the Monster Yamaha during winter testing and believes the lessons learnt from a tough previous campaign are being applied within his team.

Vinales has also undergone a shake-up on his side of the team garage by hiring Esteban Garcia as his new crew chief, replacing Petronas Sepang-bound Ramon Forcada, and taking on 2009 125cc world champion Julian Simon as his new rider coach with Wilco Zeelenberg heading up the new satellite Yamaha operation.

“The conclusion of the winter tests was very positive. I felt I was going very fast on the three days of testing here in Qatar, so I come to the first race with a positive mindset. We have a good rhythm,” Vinales said. “The first round in Losail is going to be very important to see if all the work that was done during the winter has served us well.

“Our bike has many strong points at this moment. I felt very good riding the bike during all the winter, I pushed my M1 to the limit. We have taken a step forward compared to last season, I think I'm riding my M1 in a very good way again.”

Vinales has echoed team-mate Valentino Rossi’s comments that Yamaha still has “a lot of work to do” but says fighting for a spot on the podium is possible at the 2019 opener.

“There’s still a lot of work to do, but I feel strong enough to fight for the podium at this circuit this weekend,” he said. “We just need to keep working and focus on improving the bike as much as possible to fight for the podium and, of course, for the victory.

“I can’t forget that I won my first GP with Yamaha here, so I have very special memories of this circuit and that gives me extra motivation.”

 

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