Changing bikes and teams while the championship is in progress is certainly no easy task. If we then add to that the transition from a 4-cylinder in-line engine to a V4, the task becomes even more complex. Yet Maverick Vinales is proving to have an excellent weekend at Aragon, where he grabbed 17th position on the grid for the race.
If we think about Maverick's talent and imagine him so far away from the leaders, it might be a viewed as a disappointing Saturday. But the numbers do not say everything and it is right to put them in the correct perspective. Vinales arrived at Aragon with just two days of testing at Misano under his belt and decided to work calmly to avoid errors that would have risked immediately undermining the learning process and trust building between rider and bike. But the progress made by Maverick during each single session is absolutely encouraging and makes us optimistic about the future of this Italian-Spanish pairing represented by the RS-GP and MotoGP’s ‘Top Gun’.
"I am quite happy, even if I still have to work a lot on the lines I have to do on the track because they are still too different from what we need – said Vinales - In general I have excellent sensations, the times have not been bad and this is good, but I remain of the idea that there is still a long way to go, that I have to do a lot of laps and gather a lot of information before I can express myself to the fullest. Step by step I am getting closer, I started the weekend two seconds behind the best, today I was under one second behind. Tomorrow I think I can get closer. The important thing is to stay focused and not think too much about my rivals, I just have to think about how to improve lap times with riding. This is the really complicated thing for me. The truth is that the bike works well and it’s me that has to improve. "
Did you feel safe in your first time attack?
"I have to admit that when I tried to do my time attack I rode completely wrong. I just enter too fast into the corners and I need to do the lap time in a different way. It is good for the rhythm, sure, but not for the time attack. So, I need to reset my mind, I need to make more laps to understand how to make a good qualifying here. Overall, we are quite happy because we think we have a lot of margin and this is the most important thing. I need to understand the bike, still I need a lot of laps. This is not the easiest track to start but it was good because you know the reality, and the reality is I need to work a lot on the riding style and to understand the bike."
You have made excellent progression in these two days…
"Yes, and I feel great today, the progression was excellent. The grip in Q1 was not perfect and it is always difficult with the few minutes available. In FP4 I rode with very used tyres and I really felt good, which is very positive because in the past I was in great difficulty when the tyres were wearing a lot. Today was the first time I tried the hard tyres in three years, and it was positive. So, it means everything is different. So, I need to learn and keep working.”
Did you do any analysis of Aleix's data comparing it to yours?
"I see the data every session and I just ride differently than Aleix, that's all. Usually, I try to set the lap time by carrying a lot of speed in the middle of the corner, but this bike is made to work with a different riding style. There are some positive points also in the way I ride this bike, but I have to learn how to force on the brakes and tyres, because the engine delivery is completely different and I still have to figure out how to make the most of it. "
And what about the tyres?
"As far as the tyres are concerned, I feel very good. Today I used the hard a lot and I felt very comfortable and for me this is really something new. I think I have good potential for the race. I still have to understand well how to get on the gas, because sometimes it seems to me that I do it too soon, putting the bike in crisis ".
What aspect of the RS-GP do you like best at the moment?
"What I like from the bike is that the acceleration is really good. I mean, the progression of the engine. Just I need to understand the torque because it’s different. Obviously, it’s very different and I need to understand it because it behaves one way in a round corner and another way in the pick-up area. So I need to get used to it to take the maximum performance of the acceleration. But also what I like is that I could use the hard front and this gave me a lot of feedback on hard braking. This is something I was not used to, I was used to always riding with the soft, with a little bit of an unstable feeling. Using the hard gives you good stability and this is something nice. Also, I need to work on braking. I think it’s the area that has changed much more than the rest.”
If you had to duel in the race with Quartararo, how would you feel?
"This is not the time to think about it, also because I still have a lot to learn before I can ask myself this question. Now is the time for learning. They are all going very fast and it will take time, but I believe that a bit at a time I will be able to express my potential also with this bike ".
After four days on the bike, do you feel you can define this Aprilia as a race or flying lap bike?
"It's complicated to make an evaluation like that, because I’m still not making the most of the RS-GP, so I'm not able to evaluate things well. I have to take it to the limit first and then I'll be able to understand things like that, at the moment I don't think I've explored it enough to be able to tell what the real strength of this bike is and which is the weak one. I still have to take a few steps forward before giving an opinion. I like how it behaves in corners, I just have to figure out how not to lose time under braking. "