Maverick Vinales begins the new MotoGP season having been the fastest rider in the recent test at the same Qatar circuit, prior to which he also set an enviable race pace at Sepang.

But while Yamaha had to work on improving its acceleration and rear tyre consumption issues, Vinales needed to improve his early race performance.

"Yes, we worked quite a lot," he said. "We changed a lot the set-up for the first laps and it seems to help. Honestly, I was riding with one set-up maybe too soft for the first laps of the race where you have to push and brake hard to try and overtake [with a full tank]

"With that [change] we solved quite a lot the problem. As always, you win in some areas, you lose in others, so we have to see the compromise and decide where we can win more."

If Vinales can stay with the leaders in the early laps of Sunday's Losail night race, he could be tough to beat.

"For sure our competitors are really strong right now but we are closing the gap little-by-little," he said. "I think we are doing the correct things, testing the good parts. We demonstrated we were fast in many different tracks. That's important. I'm happy to start the season at the level I am right now."

The Spaniard - who took Yamaha's only victory of last season at Phillip Island, to end the factory's longest winless run in MotoGP - has also worked hard on his mental approach:

"I've tried to face this season with a lot of calmness, with a positive mindset. It’s really important for me to feel good on the bike and I think we must trust a little bit our feelings.

"This pre-season I went on my way, riding the way I like the bike. We did good lap times but still we need to improve. I think Yamaha worked so hard, but still to be there every race we need to make another step.

"But anyway as I said, I'm feeling really good with the bike. Also inside the team they worked really well. I'm really happy with how things are going and I can't wait to start. Honestly I've been thinking about this moment to start for many days. I start with a lot of positive mind and trying to be there at the top as always."

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