Vinales targets title challenge, not learning year, for Yamaha debut

Yamaha’s new signing Maverick Vinales says he will have the MotoGP title in mind from his very first races with the Japanese manufacturer.

Vinales has two seasons of MotoGP experience under his belt, the second of which yielded a maiden premier class win at Silverstone.

Hired by Yamaha from Suzuki as replacement for outgoing three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, Vinales was on the pace immediately in post-season testing at Valencia – and believes he has learned enough in the category to be able to run out front from the very start of his Yamaha tenure.

“Honestly, this will be the third year that I’m in MotoGP. I think I could learn enough [already] to get the experience, to know how the races are going,” Vinales said at Yamaha’s 2017 bike launch in Madrid.

“I know, I will need experience with the Yamaha in the races – but I think already from the first race we can start to think to fight, to fight for the title. It’s important to start with this mentality.

“Because maybe in the middle of the season, if you start to think [about it], it’s too late. So you have to start thinking like that and always have this objective in mind.”

On how soon he expected to be fully up to grips with the YZR-M1, Vinales said: “Normally I’ve adapted to the bikes really fast. In Sepang [private testing], I was feeling already ‘it’s my bike, I do what I want’. But then comes another rider [and goes faster] and you have to improve.

“I think this year we need to have the experience not to get nervous. Last year I got nervous sometimes, when I was feeling I’m at 100 percent, also the bike, and still I’m four tenths back. And I think this year I can be always there, and this is important, make me really calm.”

The Spaniard is unconcerned about the added weight of expectations that comes with a Yamaha ride: “About the pressure – I’ve always worked really well with the pressure. I remember, when the deal was between Suzuki and Yamaha, there was a lot of pressure – and I was doing my best races.

“Normally, it’s strange but with the pressure I work even better, because I know there is an objective and I feel motivated.”

Suzuki experience an advantage

Vinales had arrived to MotoGP in 2015 with the returning Suzuki factory team, he and squadmate Aleix Espargaro tasked with helping develop the all-new GSX-RR bike.

The Spaniard believes that experience will serve him in good stead at Yamaha.

“I think I learned a lot at Suzuki, because it’s not easy to develop the bike from nearly zero, you know. I think that experience will give me a lot of advantage on that side – I understand really well what the bike is doing.

“That was a really good learning progress and, honestly, I go outside of Suzuki with a really good level in all the areas. For that I’m really happy and grateful.

“Because when I jumped on the Yamaha, I said it’s a little bit more easy to go fast – and I didn’t all the times go [flat out] and the laptimes are there.

“When you’ve already had one bike that you go every time 100 percent, even Friday in the morning – then you’re used to doing that. If I can bring to Yamaha 110 percent all the time, I think the bike’s going to be at a really good level.”

Additional reporting by German Garcia Casanova