Maverick Vinales came into the Valencia weekend confident he could fight for a third and final victory of the 2019 MotoGP season.

But he also warned that to do so would require a good start and escape at the front, as at Sepang.

Fourth in qualifying dented those chances, but ultimately Vinales just didn't have enough grip in the race.

Yet he was still satisfied, since finishing one place behind Suzuki's Alex Rins (in sixth) was more than enough to hold third – as the top Yamaha - in the final world championship standings.

It's been quite a recovery, given Vinales was down in eleventh overall after being taken out for the third time in six races at Catalunya in June. His only other DNF this season was the last-lap accident while battling Marc Marquez for victory at Phillip Island.

"The first priority was to take third place in the championship," confirmed Vinales, who began the final race seven-points ahead of fellow double 2019 winner Rins.

That margin was needed when Vinales sunk to seventh during the opening laps and remained there for much of the race.

"Today, I didn't have the feeling on the bike. We suffered a lot on the rear tyre, and I never created enough grip, as much as in the practice, so I could not be fast during all the race," Vinales explained.

"It never gave me a chance to be fast. So I tried to control the race the best I could, because the main objective was to be in the first three places of the championship, and we did it. So very happy and pleased about being the first Yamaha and being inside the top three again.

"For sure third in the championship means a lot, because we equalled our best result here at Yamaha. Another championship top three, with four 0s and not many good races is always great.

"So for me it's a present."

Vinales had some new personnel on his side of the Monster Yamaha pits this season, most notably crew chief Esteban Garcia.

"This year we created a team that I trusted a lot, and in the difficult moments, everyone was waiting for me with a smile," Vinales said.

"Everyone was trying to carry me, and they gave me the extra power in the low moments to keep pushing and keep taking the best results.

"So I'm very happy, and I'm very enthusiastic to start next year. Because I feel that we have a very important test, here and in Jerez, and I feel great on the bike.

"We need to create again a good atmosphere and to keep challenging, because I think with Yamaha we can do a really good job this winter to prepare the next year."

Turning his attention to 2020, which begins with a two-day test at Valencia this week, Vinales confirmed improving his race starts is a priority.

"For sure our main focus is the start. We have to fix the start, and to see if we can improve. Because today I saw again Dovi and also Alex from eighth going to the front. So it's an important point we have to focus, and to improve."

Perhaps a Ducati-style holeshot device would help?

"I don't really know what they are working on, but for sure we are working. We are working also about the clutch, to get a better jump at the start. We will see. But I think the main target of the Valencia and Jerez test is to improve a bit the start, and to make the bike work, and to see if we can gain some km/h on top speed."

Despite the impressive efforts of Petronas rookie Fabio Quartararo, second again on Sunday, Vinales remains the only Yamaha rider to win a MotoGP race since team-mate Valentino Rossi's victory at Assen 2017.

 

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