Maverick Viñales explained his subdued showing in Sunday’s enthralling MotoGP opener in Qatar, citing an inability to run his normal racing lines that carried him to pole position the day before, due to faster machines running ahead.

The 24-year old began the evening as one of the pre-race favourites courtesy of a near impeccable preseason, a stunning pace set throughout the race weekend, and his pole position lap, that was 0.198s faster than Andrea Dovizioso, on Saturday night.

But after a poor first lap in Sunday's race, Viñales failed to make an impression on the leading six riders, and repeatedly found his attempts to pass Joan Mir and Danilo Peturcci foiled.

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The reason Viñales gave were his normal racing lines couldn’t be used in the midst of an eight-rider fight. With machines ahead slower mid-corner, the Monster Yamaha rider had to brake later and square the corners off, tactics that burned up his rear tyre in the process.

“Well, for sure I know the race went really difficult,” he said. “Even when I finished the warm up, because we know our weak points. Somehow alone I can make the lap time, then when I am in the group, it's really difficult.

“I have to ride completely differently. I have to ride different lines, and I cannot be as fast as when I'm alone. So now we have another point of work, and after this race, we know more what to improve on the bike.

“We're fine. Just trying to overtake many riders destroyed the tyres, and at the end, I was without grip on the rear tyre, so I couldn't do any better.

“But whatever the problem is with being with other riders – apart from a lack of top speed, but this was not the main problem – it's that I have to ride very different to the way I ride when I'm alone. So now we have to work to try to find a set up to battle with the others.

“Going behind the others, I needed to make really stop-and-go lines, like they do, and I stressed the tire a lot, trying to make something to overtake, trying to make something happen. But finally I started to ride fast when I was alone, so I understand very well the problem.”

Was this a similar issue with a full tank that he encountered last year? “Well, actually, with the full tank it was OK for me, I didn't have any problem. The problem is that I was not able to overtake, because I was using different lines to the ones I was using all weekend.

“So I think Argentina is very important to simulate the lines on the race, fighting with the others. So I can't wait to be in Argentina and try to work for the race. We know that for one lap, we are very, very fast, also when we are alone with our own rhythm, we can be there. But now the next step is to improve when we battle.”

While Viñales’ race performance had echoes of several disappointing showings across a frustrating 2018, the Catalan’s reaction on Sunday night was different. Rather than blame the bike, or, as he did at times last year, the team, he admitted his weakness.

By the time he spoke to the press he was calm, and willing to go into detail on exactly what had gone wrong. It was also interesting to see new crew chief Esteban Garcia warmly embracing his rider before his media duties, as well as other members of Viñales’ team.

Asked to expand on what he meant by “simulate the lines”, the 2013 Moto3 world champion explained, “For example, I brake completely straight. Because when I brake with lean angle, I get into trouble with the front.

“So my ideal line is to brake straight, then to lean the bike and make good corner speed, and be very kind with the tyres when I open the gas. So when I'm alone, I can do that.

“But with more riders battling, you have to close the line, you have to be with the other riders, so you have to ride completely differently. Going deeper with the brakes, with more lean angle on the brakes so I stress a lot the front and then I have to open full throttle very early, and I start to make the bike struggle.

“It's what I mean, for one lap we can go very fast, because I can just go around the track and make a lot of speed, and I trust the bike, and I trust the front, and I can do it. But now it's time to improve the braking area.

“We improved it quite a lot, but not enough. Our competitors are better on this area.”