MotoGP Raceweek: Weather halts Vinales momentum in Australia

Maverick Vinales once again looks like a strong contender in Australia, where the weather has already made its mark on proceedings.

MotoGP riders will race just three hours after qualifying on Sunday at an Australian Grand Prix that has been hit by adverse weather conditions.

Saturday's qualifying session was postponed by a day after strong winds and rain in FP4, when KTM's Miguel Oliveira was blown off track, meant organisers declared conditions unsafe.

That halted the momentum of Monster Energy Yamaha's Maverick Vinales, who sat at the top of the timesheets after the first three Phillip Island practice sessions.

One consolation for the Spaniard is that if qualifying is not able to be run, practice times will be used to determine the grid order.

Vinales' FP2 effort of one minute and 28.824 seconds put him half a second clear of Andrea Dovizioso, Cal Crutchlow, Danilo Petrucci and Jack Miller.

Level on points with Alex Rins in the battle for third in the championship, Vinales loves racing in Australia. He has finished on the podium for each of the last three years, including his win in last year's event.

Marc Marquez, who has already sealed the 2019 riders' title, and Valentino Rossi were down in sixth and seventh positions respectively, closely followed by Rins.

In-form Fabio Quartararo had to sit out FP2 due to a crash in FP1 that led to him being taken to the medical centre.

Though the Rookie of the Year winner – who collected his sixth podium of the season in Japan last time out - avoided a left leg fracture, he will continue to receive treatment for a haematoma in his ankle.

Due to FP3 taking place in poor conditions, Quartararo could not match the Friday times of the other top riders and will have to progress through Q1 if qualifying goes ahead.


CRUTCHLOW BACKS QUALIFYING CALL

Crutchlow was among the riders in agreement with the decision to postpone qualifying.

"These decisions don't get taken lightly and I think we made the correct decision not to ride," the British LCR Honda rider said.

"The conditions for our bikes were horrendous. Moto2 went out in front of us and they had not as many problems, but people seem to forget they've got half the horsepower that we've got.

"Some people wanted to ride, some people didn't. It's as simple as that. If we all went out and something would have happened, I think we would have all looked like idiots and that's the reality.

"You saw what happened to Miguel. I was behind him coming down the straight, so I saw first-hand how easily you can fly off track.

"To me it was bad. Some guys think it was rideable, but I didn't and I'm a guy who will always take a risk."

MARQUEZ NEARING PEAK SEASON

With three races to go, Marquez is looking to complete an historic season.

Leading Dovizioso by 119 points after recording his fourth straight race win in Japan, he already has 10 poles and 10 victories in 2019.

This is only the second time in his MotoGP career he has reached double figures in both categories. The other was when he got 13 of each back in 2014, tallies that he can still match.

The Repsol Honda star is also eyeing his 15th podium of the season, which would equal his best career tally. He landed 15 in 2013 and would have two races in Malaysia and Valencia to go better still if he succeeds in making the top three here.

MILESTONE FOR ROSSI

Valentino Rossi, who is looking to bounce back after crashing out at Motegi, will make his 400th grand prix start.

The Italian said earlier this week: "It is good to make the 400 here in Phillip Island as it is an iconic place for MotoGP and all the riders love the circuit because it is something special compared to the rest. It is one of the best places.

"I didn't know what to expect when I started my career. When I was 17 you see a guy that is 25 years old and it felt like your grandfather! Now I am 40, imagine!"

Rossi has won six times at the circuit in the premier class and twice more in 250cc. The veteran could do with drawing on those positive memories after a season that has fallen well short of expectations.

Since a second-place finish in Austin back in April, he has gone 13 races without reaching the podium and retired on four occasions.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Maverick Vinales
2017: Marc Marquez
2016: Cal Crutchlow
2015: Marc Marquez

TITLE STANDINGS

Riders

1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 350
2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 231 (-119)
3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 176 (-174)
4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 176 (-174)
5. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 169 (-181)

Teams

1. Ducati 400
2. Repsol Honda 383 (-17)
3. Monster Energy Yamaha 321 (-79)
4. Petronas Yamaha 263 (-137)
5. Suzuki Ecstar 246 (-154)

WEATHER FORECAST

Riders will be watching the weather right up until the race starts as there is a chance of showers striking. Even if the event is a dry one, high winds are highly likely to be a factor to contend with.