Maverick Vinales made it two wins out of two in 2017 as team-mate Valentino Rossi gave the Movistar Yamaha squad a perfect result in round two of the MotoGP circuit, held at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina this weekend.
Starting from pole position, it was reigning world champion Marc Marquez who shot off into a commanding early lead, only to crash out at turn two on lap four.
That incident left 22-year-old Vinales a lead that he would not relinquish, but behind him Britain’s Cal Crutchlow led the Honda charge but had to give best to Rossi in the closing stages as he was forced to slow when an engine warning light showed up on his dashboard. Crutchlow’s third proved to be a great result in the circumstances, as well as Honda’s first podium finish of the 2017 season.
The Argentine race proved to be troublesome for many of the top riders. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa had a near identical crash to his team-mate Marquez, the Honda seemingly being unable to find a front Michelin tyre to suit their bikes in the cool conditions, while Ducati and Suzuki both had miserable weekends.
Multiple champ Jorge Lorenzo’s switch to the factory Ducati team continues to be challenging. He qualified down in 16th and found himself down and out at the very first turn. His team-mate Andrea Dovizioso found himself struggling in the lower reaches of the top 10 for the first half of the race, only to be knocked off by the crashing Aprilia of Spaniard Aleix Espargaro on lap 15 of 25. In the blue camp, Andrea Iannone jumpstarted his Suzuki and finished out of the points after taking a ride through penalty, while team-mate Alex Rins crashed out.
Of the other Brits, Scott Redding brought his 2016-specification Ducati home in eighth. Combined with his seventh in Qatar, he currently lies fourth in the championship after two races. Bradley Smith joined his team-mate Pol Espargaro in scoring the first points for the new Red Bull KTM squad, the Brit finishing 15th, but there was no such luck for Sam Lowes, who retired his Aprilia in just his second MotoGP race.
Vinales’ second win sees him take a perfect 50 point haul from two races, with Rossi second in the standings, 14 points behind, and the luckless Dovizioso third, with 20 points from Qatar.
Speaking after the race, Vinales said: “We did a great job. We made the tyre decision already this morning. I feel really great! The tyre’s grip level was really good the entire time. I feel pretty strong and Michelin is doing a great job, I feel really happy and confident. It’s like we are in a dream. I have to say thanks to the team, they are doing a great job, so let’s continue like that!”
The Argentinian round marked Valentino Rossi’s 350th Grand Prix, and the Italian legend was delighted after coming through from seventh on the grid. He added: “My mechanic, Brent, said to me on the grid ‘It’s the 350th, try to make it a good race’. I’m happy, because I was competitive today from the first to the last lap. I felt better physically and I trained hard so I felt good on the bike and I could push throughout the whole race. I feel that my concentration is good and also the battle with Cal was good also, because I was able to beat him. Unfortunately, Maverick was a bit faster, but this result is really important for me and the whole team, a Yamaha one-two is great! I don’t think the results would have been different if I’d passed Cal earlier in the race. Looking at the lap times, Maverick was a bit stronger and that’s just the way it is today. This track is always tricky, also in the past we saw a lot of problems. Bumps and slipperiness and it also rained yesterday, so you have to pay attention and you also have to be lucky. For us this is good, because we took some important points for the championship and I also felt really good with the bike today.”
Crutchlow wouldn’t elaborate on the technical problem that caused him to back off in the later stages but told the press afterwards: “It was nice to take a podium place after what happened in Qatar, I’m very happy to take a third place to be honest. I had to manage the race right from the very start as I had a warning light on the dash, but I didn’t panic and when Maverick (Viñales) came past I just decided to follow and see if I could control the situation – which I did.
“Once Valentino came on to me I decided to try and push again, but the light came back on so I had to slow down and try to manage the rest of the race as best I could. Vale came past me as he seemed to have a bit more grip than me, but we know the Honda bike is quite difficult to ride at the moment.
“I think we did a good job to manage things and bring the bike home in a podium position. Qatar was a disaster for me and the team as I felt strong there and believed I could get a good result, but to get a podium in the first two races is good. I’m really pleased for the team.”
Unusually, all three race winners in Argentina were as per round one. Italian Frankie Morbidelli again won the Moto2 race, with Portugal’s Miguel Oliviera taking KTM’s first podium finish in the class in second. In Moto3, the podium was exactly the same as in Qatar, with Spain’s Joan Mir narrowly winning from Scotland’s John McPhee and another Spaniard, Jorge Martin.
The next round of the championship takes place at Texas’ Circuit of the Americas, in two weeks’ time.