The nine-time MotoGP race winner will contest his 10th race as an Aprilia rider in this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, having joined the marque midway through a tumultuous 2021 campaign after his relationship with Yamaha spectacularly soured.
Vinales is currently 14th in the standings having scored 19 points with a best result of seventh in Argentina, while team-mate Aleix Espargaro guided the Aprilia to victory at the same event.
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Despite no standout results yet in 2022, Vinales believes he is “close” to being a frontrunner on the Aprilia and feels much stronger than he did on the Yamaha after the early part of a season.
“Yeah, absolutely, I feel much better because the line we are taking is all going up,” he said, when asked by Autosport if his form now was better than it was when he was winning races and scoring podiums on the Yamaha.
“It’s going up quicker than expected. I don’t always check the results.
“I check the feeling, I check lap times. For example, in warm-up in Austin I checked FP4 [runs]in Argentina I checked [FP4]in warm-up of Mandalika [I did the same].
“A weekend will come when we put it all together, this is clear.
“It’s a matter of time, a matter of especially how to get a little bit more with the bike because sometimes I fight a lot.
Maverick Vinales, Aprilia Racing Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“In the previous races I fought a lot with the bike and I struggled to even push a little bit more.
“I’m just one step back from being able to fight for the top all the time.
“But it will come when I do [everything as] one on the bike. So, we just need to ride, adapt without pressure because at the end we have this year to develop the bike, to make myself comfortable.
“It’s clear that if we keep up the job we are doing, we will be at the front. But when I do that I want to be there all the weekends.”
This season marks the first since 2016 that Vinales hasn’t scored a podium or a win in at least one of the opening four races, but insists he has never felt better on a MotoGP bike than he does now on the Aprilia.
“Honestly, I never feel like I’m feeling now because I think I have just nine races with the Aprilia and I feel like everything is going up in a very quick speed,” he added.
“So, we need to just be patient, don’t lose the way because I think we are working very well.
“I have to say, after Mandalika warm-up, I found a good feeling on the bike and we just kept that feeling.
“So, it means we made a big step on the base set-up. Now it’s a case of trying new parts, seeing if it’s better or not, that’s it. We are very close.”