LUSAIL, Qatar – Maverick Viñales opened the MotoGP season in fantastic form by winning Sunday’s Grand Prix of Qatar at the Losail Int’l Circuit.
It appeared at the start that the Ducati squad would be the ones to beat, with polesitter Francesco Bagnaia leading the field at the start of Sunday’s race.
Viñales was ninth through the first sector on the first lap, but that was as low as he would be during the race. Within a few laps he was up to fourth and chasing the lead pack, which continued to be led by Bagnaia.
With 12 laps left Viñales was up to third and still hunting, with only Bagnaia and Johann Zarco in front of him. One lap later Viñales was around Zarco for second, leaving just Bagnaia to chase down.
On the 15th circuit Viñales moved to the point, slipping past Bagnaia in turn 10 to gain the race lead. He would go on to lead the rest of the race to earn the victory, his ninth in MotoGP.
“The race was especially good because I had the opportunity to fight with other riders, which is always important. It’s been a while since I last overtook so many riders in one race,” Viñales said. “Early on in the race, I felt this special feeling with the bike. Also in FP4 when we did the race simulation I felt fantastic and also in qualifying. I’m very grateful, because winning is not easy, so we are going to enjoy today. For the coming race we will work and try to improve again, because we know our competitors will also improve.
“I just want to say congratulations to the team, because we did a good job this winter. I think this win is very good for the morale of the team, because it’s always important to trust ourselves. We still have some things to work on, especially on the race starts. But, overall, I think we can do a good job this season.”
Zarco was second, just more than a second behind Viñales. Bagnaia settled for third after leading a large portion of the race, with reigning MotoGP champion Joan Mir and Fabio Quartararo completing the top-five.