Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales delivered a stunning performance at the Grand Prix de France, taking his third victory of the season and the 500th Grand Prix win for Yamaha.
Viñales was strong right from the beginning of the 28-lap French round. Starting from pole, he flew off the line to take the holeshot and slotted into second as he dived into Turn 3, behind Tech 3’s Johann Zarco.
The Frenchman tried to build a gap, but the Spaniard, shadowed by his teammate Valentino Rossi, kept up and with 22 laps Viñales made a textbook move on the satellite Yamaha rookie to take over the lead.
Now at the front, the Spaniard put the hammer down. He did everything in his power to escape from Zarco and managed his pace to perfection, ensuring he held on to his P1 position until he got in a fierce battle with a rapidly approaching Rossi.
Viñales was leading on the last lap when the Doctor sensationally crashed out of the race as he tapped on the gas, allowing him to bring hisYZR-M1over the finish line, 3.134s ahead of Zarco.
Viñales said: “Keeping up with Johann in the early laps of the race was hard, he was really fast and with the full tank we were not so strong as him. He was exiting from the corners really good and really fast. Then his tyre started to drop a little bit and our tyre started to work good on the rear, and lap by lap I was feeling better. Until the end, in the last lap, I gave everything I had here in the French GP and, honestly, I’m so happy and so pleased. The team was working on an incredible level this weekend, I hope we can continue like that.”
Teammate Rossi enjoyed a day to forget. Having made a good start from second on the grid, he put his Yamaha in fourth position behind Marc Marquez after the first couple of corners, only to pass the Spaniard a few turns later. With Viñales in front of him, the factory Yamaha men rode in tandem as they chased the leader of the race.
Outbraking himself with 16 laps to go, the Italian lost some time, which left him within the grasp of Marquez.The Doctor responded quickly to the situation and upped his pace as the Spaniard crashed out of the race, allowing Rossi to focus on the battle in front. With five laps to go, he overtook Zarco for second place, making it a perfect factory Yamaha1-2, but the nine-time World Champion was hungry for more.He attacked Viñales on Lap 26 but his teammate slipped back past him as the scrap continued and Rossi made a small mistake as he asked for the gas, losing the rear and sliding out, losing valuable championship points in the process.
Rossi said: “It was a great shame, because for my team it was the best weekend of the season, where I was more competitive on the track, also in the wet, but especially in the race.
“For sure, for me this could have been the best result of the season. It was very difficult because the pace was always very high, but at the end I felt comfortable on the bike, I had a good feeling, so I tried to attack. Unfortunately, on the last lap I made a mistake in Turn 6 and I fell back a little, so Maverick could overtake me. I knew I had another chance, because we were very close and I tried to remain there, because in sector 4 I was good.
“Sincerely, what happened during the crash, we don’t understand. Usually you have to pay attention to the front, but I lost the rear when I crashed. Anyway, I made a mistake, and it’s like this. It is a great shame to go back home with zero points. First of all, I’m very sorry for missing out on the probable victory and also for losing the lead in the championship, because I lost points. For me, it still has been a good weekend, I was strong. Now we have to start thinking about the next race track, I hope to ride there like I did this weekend. We hope to continue like this.”
Viñales’ first place earns him 25 points. This puts him on 85 points and in the lead in the championship standings, 23 points ahead of Rossi in third place. The 500th Grand Prix win also sees the Yamaha MotoGP Team hold the lead in the Team standings by 21 points, with a total of 147 points, while Yamaha remains the top manufacturer in the Constructor’s Championship by a 13 point margin, with 108 points.