Yamaha surprised the Red Bull Ring paddock with an unexpected press briefing to apologise to factory riders Valentino Rossi and Maverick Vinales, in a surely unprecedented public feast of humble pie.
Vinales struggled on both days, though at least he made it straight into the top-ten Q2, where he qualified 11th, behind one of the pair who had made it through from Q1.
Valentino Rossi had been unable even to do that; placed fourth in the “junior” Q1, to start from 14th, in the middle of the fifth row of the grid.
Independent-team Monster Yamaha rider Johann Zarco qualified sixth.
Joined by a solemn-faced Lin Jarvis, MD of Yamaha Motor Racing, the factory’s Project Leader Kouji Tsuya made a formal confirmation that today had been the worst qualifying performance for the beleaguered factory pair.
“Today was very difficult for us – we are struggling with acceleration performance and power delivery,” he said, “at a track that we know is difficult for us.
“We couldn’t address the power delivery more precisely, and we have to apologise to our riders.”
Vinales had suffered additional sensor problems in the dry FP1 and FP4, he continued.
“But now we ae working as hard as ever to find the solution. We have a test at Misano before Silverstone, and one after the British GP at Aragon as well.”
His comments follow increasingly exasperated pleas for help from the factory from Rossi, and an increasingly difficult atmosphere in Vinales’s pit between the rider and his crew chief Ramon Forcada.
At the same briefing Marketing and Communications manager William Favero said: “We owe our riders and also the media an explanation;” adding: “We hope it’s the very bottom of our crisis, and we are confident we will be able to get out of this crisis soon.”
Yamaha’s last race win was at the Dutch TT at Assen last year, 20 races ago.
By Michael Scott