Movistar Yamaha MotoGP's Maverick Viñales wrote qualifying history today at the Circuito de la Comunitat Valenciana - Ricardo Tormo, becoming only the second rider ever to secure pole position after first taking part in the Q1 session. Valentino Rossi didn't find a good feeling in the wet or the dry sessions. Despite pushing hard he will start tomorrow's Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana from 16th place on the grid.
In Q1 Viñales had a strong first hot lap that saw him put his YZR-M1 in second place, but he was pushed back to third when the pace picked up. The Spaniard wasn't shy to respond with a 1'32.418s lap, putting him at the top of the provisional rankings and giving him a 0.593s advantage to his closest rival at the time.
He re-entered the track after a pit stop of just over a minute. When three and a half minutes remained, the fight for a place in the top-2 heated up, but the Yamaha rider was ready to push. He was one of the first riders to drop under the 1'32s mark today and secured second place with a 1'31.858s lap.
The local hero exited pit lane late at the start of the Q2 session, as he needed a bit of time to make some changes to the bike after the previous session had come to a close only ten minutes earlier. His first lap briefly put him in fourth place, but he soon found himself in tenth. Viñales improved his best lap of Q1 thus far, but still entered pit lane holding eighth position. However, he was just getting warmed up.
After a quick look at the provisional times, he entered the track meaning business. He clocked a provisional pole and, to keep the first place in his grasp, posted a 1'31.312s immediately after. As the chequered flag went out, nobody was able to challenge him. He ended the session with a 0.068s lead, thus securing his first pole position since the 2017 Grand Prix of Aragón.
Rossi had a more challenging outing than he expected, starting with a crash this morning at turn 4 during the wet FP3 session. Nevertheless, he was still eager to head out of pit lane for the 15-minute time-attack in the afternoon. He didn't find a good pace during his first stint, however, and was in tenth place after the first two flying laps.
He hurried to the garage for a quick pit stop. When he rejoined the action, he was determined to use the remaining session time to his advantage. He improved his time on the next try and climbed up to fourth place with a 1'32.452s. However, as the session came to a close, he was unable to make any further strides. He completed Q1 in sixth place, 1.070s from first, and he will start tomorrow's race from 16th position on the grid.
Position: 1st - Time: 1'31.312 - Laps: 9
"Great to be back on pole and to be on the front row. The target for today was to be on the first or second row, and in the end we got pole, so that's something amazing and unbelievable. I'm so happy, to finish the season in that form, feeling really strong. Honestly, I can't say anything more than that, I'm just happy. However, I will take it session by session. We did good in the qualifying and I'm excited about tomorrow, but tomorrow is another day. It could rain, or maybe not, we don't know - we have to be ready for all conditions.
I think the bike, in the rain, still needs to be improved. The bike we have right now is in the top-10, but let's see. I'm curious what will happen. It's very important to start from pole, because if you're at the front in the first laps it's better. I'll do my best, but there's no pressure. It's the last race of the season. I will give everything, but I don't pay too close attention to the championship standings right now, I'm just going to enjoy the time on the bike and let's see if we can be at the top."
Position: 16th - Time: 1'32.452 - Laps: 9
"It was a difficult day, very tough. On the wet yesterday I felt comfortable, so I was quite optimistic this morning that I could finish in the top-10 because it was still wet. I tried to push at the beginning and I crashed with one bike, but apart from that I was not fast enough in FP3 anyway to go through to Q2. After that the conditions changed and it became drier, so from the morning to the afternoon we changed something on the bike, but in reality I never felt good and couldn't push 100% in the afternoon. At the end, I improved my lap time in Q1, but it wasn't enough to get into Q2, so we start from very far back, which will be hard. We have to work and try as hard as possible, and we also have to wait and see what the conditions will be like tomorrow morning, because the forecast is very bad."