Maverick Vinales says he “knew he’d lost the race” after being unable to pass Takaaki Nakagami in the opening stages of the Dutch TT.
The Yamaha rider-who announced he would exit the manufacturer at the end of 2021 on Monday morning-fought back well from a disastrous German Grand Prix outing just a week earlier, where he finished last after qualifying towards the back, to topping three of the four practice session at Assen before storming to pole ahead of team-mate Fabio Quartararo.
Vinales took a gamble for the race on Sunday though as he became the only man on the grid to opt for the soft front tyre, which made it imperative for him to make a good start and lead from the beginning due to the reduced under-braking stability the softer front tyre affords, the trade-off being greater edge grip that would have allowed him carry theoretically more corner speed.
Having found himself dropping to fifth after not getting away cleanly, Vinales quickly dispatched Alex Rins before turning his attentions to Nakagami ahead, though it took him until just past mid-distance to finally dispatch the LCR rider for third-which soon became second after Francesco Bagnaia was forced to serve a long-lap penalty for track limits.
He pulled away thereafter to cross the line in second, having been able to match race-winning Quartararo and at times even close slightly on the series leader, Vinales explaining that an overheating tyre meant he found it tough to get close enough to attack Nakagami and make progress.
“For me it’s a great Sunday, it’s been a while since I was last on the podium so honestly I’m very happy, especially about the second half of the race because I was fast and could do competitive times but I expected a bit more at the beginning, I don’t know why I was stuck behind (Takaaki) Nakagami,” explained Vinales.
“I kept trying (to pass) but never got the opportunity, I knew when I was stuck behind him for ten laps that’d I’d lost the race because also the tyres suffer and I was not able to make the overtake.
“It’s always tough (to pass) with our bike so we need to keep working, (Johann) Zarco was attacking me while I was trying to keep the gap with Nakagami which overheated the tyres so it was very complicated but at the end we finished in a good way.
“I don’t know (what happened at start), it’s easy to say something wrong so I just didn’t make a perfect start and it cost me, but I’m pretty happy because despite this we were able to recover and for sure when I was behind Nakagami I was very upset because I had much more rhythm and could do 1:32s but I was stuck.
“The problem is if you stay really close to the guy in front for three or four laps the tyre overheats, so I had to get a gap and wait for the tyre to come back and then try to overtake.
“It was not easy and I had to overtake in a challenging place, and luckily Pecco (Bagnaia) had a long-lap as it would have been tough to pass him.
“He (Nakagami) was so strong in the middle of the corner, when he got on the gas he was so strong and I couldn’t catch.
“I could catch him in the faster turns but in second or third gear corners he was really fast, really impressive in the first part of the race.”