Maverick Vinales made a winning start to life as a Movistar Yamaha rider after a thrilling battle with Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi in Qatar. The Spaniard recovered from a poor start to see off the factory Ducati rider who was forced to settle for second at Losail for the third year in succession.
At one stage, there were genuine concerns over whether a race would take place at all this evening after a rain shower ten minutes before the scheduled start. After furious debate amongst riders, team managers and race direction, the Grand Prix did finally get going half an hour late with a reduced distance of twenty laps.
The shorter race convinced several riders to switch to a softer option tyre and Johann Zarco made full use of his Michelins early on, storming into a sensational first lap lead on his debut. Astonishingly, the Moto2 champion was actually starting to pull away from a chasing group led by Dovizioso but on lap seven, the front end of the Tech 3 Yamaha folded into turn two, ending any hopes of a remarkable rookie victory.
Dovizioso inherited the lead with Andrea Iannone and Marc Marquez in close company while Vinales was running fourth, just ahead of his team-mate Rossi. The leading group was about to lose another protagonist on lap eleven though with Iannone sliding out at turn five, leaving Marquez and the factory Yamahas to chase down the no.04 Ducati.
Marquez was the next to fall by the wayside with the reigning champion shuffled back to fourth by the Movistar Yamahas on lap twelve. The Honda’s acceleration out of the final corner was already proving a handicap and as the race entered its latter stages, the no.93 became an increasingly distant fourth.
With seven to go, Vinales was piling the pressure on Dovizioso but despite several classy moves, the power of the Ducati down the home straight kept Andrea in contention. Ultimately though, the young Spaniard scythed past at turn five on the penultimate lap, doing so early enough in the lap to gap the no.04 before reaching the main straight. With the Ducati out of range, Vinales was clear to claim his second premier class win.
Rossi came home a close third, a result precious few would have predicted after his form in testing and practice, while Marquez held onto fourth despite falling into the clutches of his team-mate Dani Pedrosa. Aleix Espargaro chased the Hondas home for a sensational sixth on the Gresini Aprilia while Scott Redding and Jack Miller claimed creditable results in seventh and eighth respectively.
Alex Rins was the first rookie home, pipping Jonas Folger to ninth, while Jorge Lorenzo’s Ducati debut couldn’t have panned out much worse, the Spaniard running wide on lap one before trailing home in eleventh.
2017 Grand Prix of Qatar: Race Result (20 Laps)
[table id=1818 /]