Maverick Vinales began the Argentine MotoGP from second on the grid and confident of fighting for at least second place in the race, having been best of the rest behind Marc Marquez in morning warm-up.

Instead, Vinales was struck down by the latest edition of his 'incredible' two-and-a-half-year Yamaha grip-loss problem, which he has so often felt optimistic of curing, only to be left disappointed.

While Honda winner Marquez lapped 0.3s slower than his best warm-up time, Vinales lost 0.9s and as much as 1.3s after 20 laps on the tyre compared to the (cooler) morning outing.

The 'strange' effect was similar to starting the race on 'really old' rubber.

"It's something incredible. It's very, very strange," Vinales said. "We are the only Yamaha who suffers so much. It never happened to me even when I was in Suzuki and not in the first part of 2017.

"Honestly, it's been two and a half years up that I have had this problem. Australia [2018, which he won] is the only time that I had grip."

Vinales was the only rider to select the soft front tyre for the race, but joined the majority of riders in using the soft rear.

"For sure the tyre choice was the right one, because in the morning I felt excellent," he said. "I had no issues in the race with the front tyre, it was all on the rear. So it's pretty strange.

"It was very difficult, honestly. I cannot understand how we lost so much grip. The feeling compared to this morning is like I have really old tyres. This morning I used the one from qualifying, that you put through a lot of stress and sliding, and I said, 'Oh wow, the grip is excellent'.

"So I thought in the race, I could go so fast, I thought I would be able to go with Marc. But then in the race with new tyres, I felt like I was on a 20 lap [old] tyre. A very strange feeling. Honestly, we saw some problems on the data, so we need to analyse, and see if we can improve it."

After a poor start and then struggling to overtake in Qatar, Vinales put a lot of emphasis on preparing for the early laps in Argentina. Unfortunately for the #12 he again didn't make a great start, but was at least able to recover some places until his lack of grip became evident.

"I didn't start good, this is true, but then I felt good, because I overtook Morbidelli in Turn 2, I overtook Miller. Quite different than in Qatar, I had the opportunity to overtake.

"It was like at the end of the race, I could pass many riders. But this problem remains, that I am 1.2-1.3 seconds slower than in the warm up."

Vinales explained that he looked stronger towards the end because he had been desperately experimenting with ways to adapt to the rear grip problems, rather than the situation improving.

"It's because I took out all my potential, all my riding style. But the grip level is so down. It's just I try different lines to be on the lap time. But it's not because the bike is working better [at the end], honestly.

"As I said, even if the circumstance in the race is bad, I try to give my best, I try to change everything to be fast. I tried everything today, everything! I could not try anything more.

"I tried to brake deep, to brake early, to open the gas smoother, aggressive, all the switches I had, all the maps. But the result was the same. I had a lot of problems on the rear tyre, and I could not be strong enough like the morning."

One of the biggest symptoms of the grip difficulties came under braking.

"I was braking earlier than in the morning because I could not stop the bike. Because the rear was sliding so much, and I was going from inside, outside, sliding. We are pretty sure the problem was the rear tyre.

"It's something incredible. It's very very strange. But whatever it is, we have to solve it and to see what happened on the bike."

A frustrating race then came to a violent conclusion when Vinales was punted out of a potential sixth place by Franco Morbidelli on the final lap, for which the Spaniard admirably refused to hold a grudge.

"The only positive point is that when the bike is working I'm there, in the top three in all the practices, so we need to keep focused and see if we can improve in the race," he said.

Vinales is already 36-points behind Marquez in the world championship standings.

Team-mate Valentino Rossi claimed the second place Vinales had been hoping to fight for at Termas de Rio Hondo.

 

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