Maverick Vinales arrives at the Valencia MotoGP season finale full of confidence, after a dominant victory at Sepang.

But critical to the Yamaha star's success was being able to escape on the first lap in Malaysia, allowing him to ride unhindered and build enough of a buffer to compensate for the M1's lack of top speed on the straights.

After finishing a close second in Friday practice in Spain, Vinales revealed a major engine-braking improvement was found at Sepang but still feels he will need to get the early lead in Sunday's race.

"In Malaysia I had the luck to escape on the first lap. Here it's the same. I need to start on the first row, take first place and push. It's where I feel the best, when I can be first and I can push," Vinales said.

"For sure it's going to be difficult, but Malaysia had two long straights and we managed. In sector one [at Valencia, with the main straight] we lose a little bit, but then we will see if we can gain something on traction in the other sectors."

The Spaniard - within 0.148s of the top in both of today's sessions, led by satellite Yamaha rookie star Fabio Quartararo, but looking arguably the best for race pace - added: "In Valencia normally we struggle quite a lot for the rhythm, but this year we arrive in another mentality, totally different bike and straight away I felt really good.

"In the morning, in the cold. In the afternoon, with the wind. Also with the hard tyre - I felt good way and that's important because many different tracks, fast and slow, we are there and that's the key to continue the process."

Part of that improvement came during the hectic triple-header of flyaway races, where nine days of track action are compressed into a little over two weeks.

"During the Asian tour I understood much more the bike, how to ride it, and riding three weeks in a row it's always good to improve. For sure I improved myself but also the bike improved a little bit and gives me much more confidence, especially in the front," said Vinales, seeking his third win of the season this weekend.

"In Sepang we understood how to improve the engine brake for example. Sepang wasa race where we had the best engine brake of the season and now we have a point of reference, so we bring it here and I think tomorrow we can make another step."

Vinales starts the final round seven-points clear of Suzuki's Alex Rins in the fight for third in the world championship.

Rins was sixth fastest on Friday, with Vinales' team-mate Valentino Rossi down in 14th after two falls.

 

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