After a blazing sixth-to-first ride in the Qatar season-opener, then fighting from a low of eleventh to fifth (and just 2sec from victory) at the Doha round, Maverick Vinales found himself in something of a time warp on race day at Portimao.

Despite starting the weekend fastest in FP1, and only being denied pole by a minuscule track limits violation, Vinales finished the race in eleventh place – exactly where he crossed the line at Portimao last November.

On that occasion he was 18.685s from KTM race winner Miguel Oliveira, while on Sunday the gap grew to 23. 761s from victorious team-mate Fabio Quartararo.

That was largely down to Vinales dropping to 20th on the opening lap, then 21st and last not long after. The Spaniard finally began to make progress on lap 9 of 25, but even with accidents ahead it was too late to crack the top ten.

Vinales, who set the tenth fastest lap of the race, half-a-second from Quartararo's best, explained that he simply didn't have enough rear grip. That also suggests he is the second Factory-spec Yamaha rider, after Valentino Rossi, to strike what appears to be a repeat of last season's difficulties.

The #12 had used the medium rear tyre in final practice and then switched to the hard rear for the hotter race conditions, but Quartararo won with the same tyre choice.

"It's pretty tough to understand if [the hard tyre] was a mistake," Vinales said.

While resigned to losing places at the start until Yamaha joins the other factories in having a front holeshot device, the Spaniard believes a top five would have been possible without the qualifying penalty leaving him 12th on the grid.

"The start, we know we have an issue, we cannot improve until we get something new," he said, referring to the front holeshot device.

"However, if we start in the front row we have a totally different race. Not to win, because today I didn't have the pace, I had very low grip on the bike and I could not do anything incredible, but at least to be in the top five.

"We need to try to make a reset in our mind. We know that we can be fast. So we just need to keep working and keep calm. Honestly, even if it was a very bad result, it was not that bad at the end.

"But we need to understand what was the problem during all the weekend, because I could only ride fast with the last time attack. The rest we were slow."

With Yamaha focussing its winter efforts on solving last year's fluctuating form, which meant it won more races than any other manufacturer but still missed out on the three titles, Vinales admitted it's a concern that the bike behaved so differently to Qatar.

"It's hard to keep the focus and especially the motivation when you see that you could win the two first races, then you arrive to the next track and you struggle to be in the top ten," Vinales said.

"It was a difficult, difficult race. I cannot explain why. The feeling was similar all weekend, very low grip on the rear tyre. I only had good grip with the second tyre of qualifying, which made a huge difference, and if they didn't cancel my lap, was good enough to be in the pole position.

"So basically all weekend we were struggling, we didn't find out why.

"But it's time to check, to see and to improve. Because [otherwise] we will be on the same issue as every year, we start winning, and then little by little we slow down.

"This is not positive. We need to keep working as we did, and see if we can find something. For sure we can take out something from this race, because it was not normal what I was feeling on the bike.

"So let's keep a positive mind and now we are going to Jerez, a track that is very good for us and especially for me, and we will see. We will try to work harder to be even better."

Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli said: "It's a day of two extremes for the team. Maverick wasn‘t able to find the confidence he was looking for in the opening stages.

"But he did do good damage limitation. He kept pushing, and because of the many crashes, the five points he collected today are all the more valuable.

"We will closely check what prevented Maverick from getting the feeling he needed to be more competitive in this race, so he can come back stronger in Jerez."

Following the race, Vinales found himself batting away rumours and criticism on social media, before taking a leaf out of friend Jack Miller's book and deciding that it's best to steer clear of social media after a bad result, with Vinales even closing his Twitter account.

Vinales is third in the world championship and 20-points from Quartararo heading into next weekend's Jerez round.



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