Rossi Finishes Fifth in French MotoGP to Keep Championship Challenge Alive
GRAND PRIX OF FRANCE
Le Mans – 19 May 2019
Valentino Rossi pushed hard on the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP bike to complete a challenging Grand Prix de France. It completed a difficult weekend where he was able to maintain fourth place in the series. Maverick Viñales, however, was unlucky to crash out of the race after an early collision caused by another rider.
Rossi’s weekend started with a master stroke. A poor practice performance had left him outside the top ten qualifiers and forced him to compete in Q1. However, his extensive experience told him to risk running on soft slick Michelin tires for the start of the session. While other riders were struggling on rain tires in the damp conditions, Rossi set a quick time that saw his competitors head to the pits to change to slicks. Unfortunately, they responded too late and the track had become too slippery for anybody to challenge him.
Progressing to Q2, Rossi was able to fight as high as fifth position. This put him on the second row of the grid, with championship leader, Marc Marquez, on pole.
Rossi had a good start, managing to hold his position in the tight first corners, gaining a place before crossing the line for the first time. He was chasing Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati when a gap started to form between them and the two front runners. The Italians responded as Jack Miller challenged Marc Marquez, and a group of four was established at the front with 20 laps to go.
The Doctor put his head down but couldn‘t quite match the pace of the front riders and eventually had to allow Danilo Petrucci to pass him on the second works Ducati. Still the veteran didn‘t give up. He kept pushing 100% in a lonely fifth place, and his persistence enabled him to take another shot at the front runners in the final stages of the race. On the last six laps, #46 was inching closer but came just short of making a move. He finished fifth, 3.053sec from first.
“I was hoping to get on the podium today,” Rossi said after the race. “Still, it was a positive weekend – better than in Jerez. We started well and the pace was good. In fact, I arrived at the finish very close behind our main rivals. Unfortunately, we lost out on acceleration, and because of that it was very difficult to stay with the front-runners – they’re very fast out of the corners. But during the weekend we worked well, and our bike was fast. In the parts where you have to really ride hard, I was strong. At the end of the race I felt better, and I to stay with Dovi, Petrucci, and Miller. I was hoping to overtake Miller, but needed to be faster to attack. Now we start thinking about Mugello. Let’s see if we can be a bit more competitive there.”
Viñales endured a luckless end to his French GP. The Spaniard started from P11 in the chaotic mid-pack. Trying to get up to speed, he settled in 14th place after the first lap. He temporarily moved up a position as he started to pick up the pace, but soon got into a battle with Álex Rins. With 21 laps to go, in 12th place and about to overtake Aleix Espargaró, Viñales was taken out in a race incident. The Yamaha rider escaped injury but scored no points.
“Honestly, I couldn’t do anything,” Viñales explained after the race. “I was trying to overtake Aleix at that moment. I think it’s important for us to understand the mistakes we made this weekend, which is mainly on the Saturday with the qualifying strategy. When you start from eleventh on the grid, these types of race incidents are something you’re exposed to. So, we need to keep working to understand what we can improve. It started out as a perfect weekend and we ended it with zero points, so we have to learn from it.”The results keep Rossi in fourth position in the championship standings with a 23-point gap to first. Viñales‘ unlucky finish moves him down to tenth in the rankings, with a 65-point margin to the top.
Yamaha moved up to third in the constructor standings, while Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP dropped a place to third in the team classification.
The team will be back in action in Tuscany in two weeks‘ time for the Gran Premio d‘Italia Oakley, held at the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello on 2 June 2019.