Maverick Vinales has been demoted three spots on the grid as punishment for holding up Fabio Quartararo at the end of Q2 as he ‘wheelied’ for the crowd on the racing line.

The Spaniard thought the session had finished and so wasn’t aware riders behind him were still pushing on a fast lap when he began cruising, pulling wheelies and waving to the Spanish fans.

"I don’t know what to say, honestly. I thought I get the chequered flag. So I just say 'hey' to the people. I make wheelies, everything. I didn’t understand," Vinales said. "Then I saw Fabio and it was too late. I didn’t expect it. I thought I was on the chequered flag. I even checked the screens and it was like this."

Though the incident – which led to a frustrated Quartararo remonstrating with his Yamaha counterpart – didn’t affect the Frenchman as he had already sealed the fastest time for pole position, it was still placed under investigation by Race Direction.

After discussing with both riders, the FIM MotoGP Stewards’ Panel have decided to penalise Vinales by the measure of three grid spots, demoting him from the front row in third down to sixth place instead.

The official statement from FIM read: “On 15 June 2019 at 14:51 during the MotoGP Q2 of the GRAN PREMI MONSTER ENERGY DE CATALUNYA, at Turn 9 you were found to be riding in an irresponsible manner being slow on the racing line and disturbing another rider.”

Speaking before the penalty was handed down, Vinales was asked what happened in the post-qualifying press conference, the Spaniard admitting he wasn't aware the session was still live.

“I don’t know what to say, I thought I had the chequered flag, so I was waving to the people and pulling wheelies. I didn’t understand when I saw Fabio, I saw it too late. I didn’t expect it because I thought I was on the chequered flag."

His loss means Franco Morbidelli joins Petronas SRT Yamaha rider Quartararo on the front row, with Valentino Rossi shifting up to fourth and Andrea Dovizioso nudged up to fifth.

 

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