Five Questions With Team Suzuki Ecstar's Maverick Viñales

With a name like “Maverick,” Suzuki’s MotoGP young gun is surely destined for MotoGP greatness.


No joke: Maverick Viñales is named after Tom Cruise's character, Lieutenant Pete "Maverick" Mitchell, star of the 1986 Hollywood blockbuster Top Gun.

While the 20-year-old Suzuki MotoGP rookie doesn't walk the paddock with the swagger of a fighter pilot, his ambition, to win the MotoGP world championship, is more true-to-life than one of Cruise's faux fly-bys.

I spent a few minutes this weekend with the 2013 Moto3 world champion at the Circuit de la Comunitatat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo Circuit near Valencia, Spain, to check his progress in Grand Prix racing’s premier class.

Do you rate your first season in MotoGP as a success?
For me, it was a really positive season because the team was new, the bike was new, we didn't have any data, and I didn't have any experience. All of this made going forward difficult, but sometimes we made good results.

We improved the electronics and chassis, but engine development is a little bit “stopped.” I’m happy that we can start next year with more or less the same power as the others and the same electronics. We were consistently in the first 10 so, for sure, we are happy about the season.

What is the greatest strength of the Suzuki?
For me, it is the chassis. We improved it so much. Now we have a really different setup from the first days; it's another bike. I remember in the middle of the season we had a really good bike to make one lap but for the race it was impossible to ride.


Power is not really important. More rear grip is most important. When I was at Phillip Island in Australia, for example, I was able to ride many laps with Hondas—the good ones. I could feel that we needed more grip in the rear because we didn’t accelerate like the others.

Your teammate, Aleix Espargaro, has a lot of experience in MotoGP. Do you share his ideas for development of the GSX-RR prototype?
We ride the bike similarly, and normally our comments are the same. Aleix makes understanding the bike easier. For sure, he is really fast and this year he pushed me a lot. I am lucky to have an experienced teammate like Aleix.

In the first part of the season, my best lap of the race was my first lap and then I couldn’t make that pace again. But now I can keep the pace and I even improve when the tires go down. When the bike is consistent, it is easier to improve.

Given your recent experience in Moto2, do you trust the MotoGP electronics?
If you don't trust, you don't go fast. But adapting to the electronics was difficult for me. Maybe in other years, the level was not so high. Now the level is so high that you cannot lose even one meter in the track.

You need to be 100 percent every lap when you put on the gas how you pick up the bike. If you open the gas too early, the electronics start to work and destroy acceleration. You need to be correct all the time.


Did you struggle to learn the Bridgestone tires?
In the first five races, it was really difficult to make one lap with the soft rear tire. After Montmelo [Catalunya], I could give my best with the soft. I also understood the front tire more. Compared to Moto2, the front is amazing. Before I was not taking all the profit from the front, just 80 percent. Now I push it a lot.

Understanding the tires comes lap-by-lap and race-by-race. They also change a lot when we go from one track to another. Malaysia was terrible—the track was so slippery. Here in Valencia, we have a little more grip. For me, Friday FP1 is to understand the electronics and the tires. In FP2, I can concentrate to go fast.