Yamaha’s Maverick Viñales has started off the MotoGP season as has been widely expected, taking the win at a challenging Losail circuit during the Grand Prix of Qatar over a host of previous champions.
After stealing the headlines throughout preseason, Viñales retains them after his first win for Yamaha – but easy it wasn’t, as the polesitter fought it out with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso in an awesome desert duel. Viñales’ teammate Valentino Rossi completed the podium in third after coming back from P10 on the grid.
Reigning champion Marc Marquez took fourth place while teammate Dani Pedrosa took fifth, well behind the pace with Viñales 6.745 seconds ahead at the drop of the chequered flag. The Losail evening was affected by mixed weather conditions that created quite a tricky situation.
A brief, light rain shower fell just minutes before the planned MotoGP race time of 9 pm local time, causing the GP start time and race distance to be changed twice. Finally, the lights went off at 9:45, following two warm-up laps that preceded a 20-lap race.
In the hectic moments preceding the race, Marquez changed his front tyre on the grid, switching from a hard-front/medium-rear combination to a medium-medium spec. Pedrosa kept his original choice of medium-medium, but both riders struggled with the front during the race.
A stunning start from Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) from P2 was soon overshadowed as rookie Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) slammed into the lead in the first laps, getting away and making a gap as Viñales found himself falling back into the clutches of his teammate. But despite an incredible display, the fairytale came to an early end for the Frenchman as he slid out of the lead soon after – leaving ‘DesmoDovi’ out front.
With the number 4 Ducati getting away in the lead, Iannone then crashed out of the fight for second – leaving Marc Marquez, Viñales and Rossi chasing the leading Desmosedici. After a classic scuffle between the number 46 and 93, the ‘Doctor’ set off in pursuit of his teammate.
And then there were three: Viñales, Dovizioso, and Rossi, who each booked a place on the podium.