Viñales was strong right from the beginning of the 28-lap French round. Starting from pole, he flew off the line to take the holeshot and slotted into second as he dived into turn 3, behind Johann Zarco. The Spaniard was on the case, shadowed by his teammate. With 22 laps Viñales made a textbook move on the satellite Yamaha rookie to take over the lead.
Now at the front, the Spaniard put the hammer down. He did everything in his power to escape from Zarco. He managed his pace to perfection and made sure he held on to his P1 position until he got in a fierce battle with a rapidly approaching Rossi, but the number 25 rider held firm. He was leading on the last lap, when the Doctor crashed out of the race, allowing him to bring his YZR-M1 over the finish line, 3.134s ahead of his closest rival.
Teammate Rossi had a good start from second on the grid and put his Yamaha in fourth position behind Marc Marquez after the first couple of corners, only to pass the Spaniard a few turns later. With Viñales in front of him, the Movistar Yamaha men rode in tandem as they chased the leader of the race.
Outbraking himself with 16 laps to go, the Italian lost some time, which left him within the grasp of Marquez. The Doctor responded quickly to the situation and upped his pace as the Spaniard crashed out of the race, allowing Rossi to focus on the battle in front. With five laps to go, he overtook Zarco for second place, making it a perfect Movistar Yamaha 1-2, but the nine-time World Champion was hungry for more.
He planned an attack on Viñales on lap 26 and had the fans cheer when he hit the front, but it wasnt to last. His teammate slipped back past him as the scrap continued and with the pace as hot as todays, a small mistake from Rossi on the last lap prohibited him from reaching the finish line after a hard-fought battle.
Viñales' first place earns him 25 points. This puts him on 85 points and in the lead in the championship standings, 23 points ahead of Rossi in third place. The 500th Grand Prix win also sees the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team hold the lead in the Team standings by 21 points, with a total of 147 points, whilst Yamaha remains the top manufacturer in the Constructor's Championship by a 13 point margin, with 108 points.
The MotoGP paddock will next hit the Gran Premio d'Italia at the Autodromo del Mugello in two weeks time.
Today it looked like we were going to have a dream scenario with a Yamaha 1-2-3, but unfortunately it wasnt to be. Still, we take great pride in this Grand Prix weekend's performances. Yamaha has reached the 500th Grand Prix milestone, which is a very special occasion, and the manner in which it was done further underlines how successful Yamaha is in Grand Prix racing. Mavericks incredible focus, dedication and speed prevailed in a tension-filled race, leading to his third Grand Prix victory of the season. For sure it would be nice to have had Vale on the podium, but the tiny mistake on the last lap robbed him of that moment. Even so, its been a proud day for the Yamaha family: the way Vale fought today made the French Grand Prix a great show and made it a race to remember. We hope many more exciting races like todays are in our future as we continue to strive for top results over the rest of the season.
Johann Zarco delivered a sublime performance today at the legendary Le Mans circuit to storm to a maiden premier class podium in the memorable round 5 fight. The home hero began the sprint from 3rd on the grid and quickly surged to the front of the highly competitive field for the opening six laps. After fearlessly dicing with the leaders, the MotoGP rookie met the chequered flag in 2nd to sweeten Yamahas 500th Grand Prix win, with the race being won by Maverick Vinales.
Meanwhile, Jonas Folger powered to 7th at the Monster Yamaha Tech3 home GP where he delivered a solid comeback charge after a tricky start. The young German fell back to 17th at the beginning, but stuck into a formidable pace and posted lap times which were comparable to his teammate at the end of the Grand Prix. The solid finish leaves Folger confident ahead of the next round at Mugello.
Position: 1st - Championship: 1st - Points: 85
Keeping up with Johann in the early laps of the race was hard, he was really fast and with the full tank we were not so strong as him. He was exiting from the corners really good and really fast. Then his tyre started to drop a little bit and our tyre started to work good on the rear, and lap by lap I was feeling better. Until the end, in the last lap, I gave everything I had here in the French GP and, honestly, I'm so happy and so pleased. The team was working on an incredible level this weekend, I hope we can continue like that. For sure the tyres were working really good here, we hope we can work like this also in Mugello.
Position: DNF - Championship: 3rd - Points: 62
It was a great shame, because for my team it was the best weekend of the season, where I was more competitive on the track, also in the wet, but especially in the race. For sure, for me this could have been the best result of the season. It was very difficult because the pace was always very high, but at the end I felt comfortable on the bike, I had a good feeling, so I tried to attack. Unfortunately, on the last lap I made a mistake in turn 6 and I fell back a little, so Maverick could overtake me. I knew I had another chance, because we were very close and I tried to remain there, because in sector 4 I was good. Sincerely, what happened during the crash, we don't understand. Usually you have to pay attention to the front, but I lost the rear when I crashed. Anyway, I made a mistake, and it's like this. It is a great shame to go back home with zero points. First of all, I'm very sorry for missing out on the probable victory and also for losing the lead in the championship, because I lost points. For me, it still has been a good weekend, I was strong. Now we have to start thinking about the next race track, I hope to ride there like I did this weekend. We hope to continue like this.
Position: 2nd - Championship: 5th - Points: 55
The result feels so good and there are many words that I could use, but today has been just great. The conditions were perfect for me in the race with the soft tyre and it was fantastic that I was able to run the pace that I did and to also lead a GP again. I had one flashback of Qatar in my mind, yet, everything was better here than there! Vinales passed me on the 7th lap and from that moment I was just happy to stay with him, and he was fast, but I think that this was the key for me to getting the podium. Rossi was also strong, but its a bit complicated to fight in Le Mans because the track is tight, so I was thinking that even though 3rd at the time was fantastic, if they fight like that, maybe something will happen and I can get a better position, and this came true. My result is super and it was so much fun today. The crowd made a lot of noise and there was positive energy. I didnt feel it at the time, but now I realise that they brought me to the top and now I need to enjoy this moment. Im a rookie and I am not looking at the Championship and the most important thing is to finish races and collect points, and today I got 20, which is fantastic. I am living in the present and enjoying every round, so if this 2nd place gives me a good advantage in the standing, then I will take it.
Position: 7th - Championship: 9th - Points: 38
In the end, it was a positive day, but especially for Johann who finished in 2nd and I am really happy for him. As for my side of the garage, we struggled yesterday and I qualified on the fifth row. However, we knew that my pace was good and better than 15th. The race was hard at the beginning because I was further back than where I wanted to be and it was not easy to overtake or build up a rhythm quickly. Yet, once I started running a good rhythm, I posted some really solid lap times. Now, I need to work on myself and analyse what I can do differently to avoid making mistakes like this, where I start from the middle of the field. I have to be stronger throughout the weekend and improve my pace in the first part of the Grand Prix, but overall I am pleased, we took some important points and the weekend ended in a positive way.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 - Team Manager
Finally the French GP is over and like anyone can imagine, I was emotional as well as a bit nervous, but Im sure that Johann was too! In the end, the race went better than anything we could have dreamed of. Johann had an unreal start, as usual, and ran an superb pace in the first six laps. He was running at the front and on his own, and that is a feeling that much be incredible for a rider. I must admit that we were slightly worried because we decided to use the soft front and rear tyres for both riders, and our main opponents, Factory Yamaha, used the medium compounds. We didnt experience a high track temperature throughout the whole weekend until today, so we were going into the unknown for the second part of the GP. When Maverick passed Johann, I was a bit relieved, because I thought that our rider would follow Maverick to see where he was quicker, how the tyres compare and whether he could stay with him or let him go. After two-thirds of the distance was completed, things were looking good because the gap back to 4th was increasing and even though Valentino was close to Johann, the possibility of a podium was really increasing with every lap. Valentino, who was very fast in the second part of the sprint, passed Johann and our man didnt try to challenge him as he just wanted to bring the bike home and get his maiden podium. As everyone knows, there was an incredible battle at the front and it was very unfortunate that Valentino crashed because it would have been a dream to have an all-Yamaha podium for their 500th Grand Prix win. Tonight we are happy because we have the celebration of the Yamaha milestone and there will be an extra nice feeling because of Johanns podium, but I am sorry for Valentinos outcome. On Jonas side, he recovered well but I have to admit that I am a little bit disappointed. In the second half of the fight, he was posting really solid times as he matched Johanns pace, plus he was even a bit quicker at some points. Yet, at the beginning, he lost too much time and we have seen this in a few races already. However, the speed is there but we now have to work to find solutions for him. Thanks to both riders and the whole Monster Yamaha Tech3 crew, but especially to the fans who were amazing and it will be a weekend that we will never forget.