Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi was forced to start his 2017 campaign from tenth position on the Qatar grid due to the fact that fourth practice and qualifying were cancelled on Saturday due to inclement weather.
However, the Doctor didn‘t take long to cut through the field. Launching his YZR-M1 past various rivals as the starting lights went out, he grabbed seventh place, despite a collision in turn one.
With 18 laps to go the Italian was the quickest man on track, trying to pass Dani Pedrosa in front of him.
Seeing the front group break away, he made his move a lap later and slotted in behind his teammate, Maverick Vinales.
The Yamaha duo moved up two places as Zarco and Iannone fell victim to the high pace needed to stay in contention in the first hot battle, under unfamiliar track conditions.
Rossi ran wide going into turn 1 with ten laps to go, but he recovered quickly. He followed his teammate past Marquez, making the crowd cheer, as now both Yamaha riders were in for a podium place.
The veteran bided his time as Viñales and Dovizioso battled for the lead.
With four laps to go he set his personal best time, a 1‘56.398s, and was looking threatening, but due to tyre wear he was unable to join in on the fight for the victory and had to settle for a hard-fought third place, crossing the line +1.928s behind his teammate.
Viñales' superb win earns him first place in the championship standings with 25 points. Rossi now holds third place in the championship with 16 points. Thanks to these results Movistar Yamaha MotoGP take the lead in the teams' championship with 41 points, whilst Yamaha leads the Constructor standings with 25 points.
“My secret is my team, it‘s Yamaha. We never give up and we always keep up our concentration,” Rossi said. “I always feel the support and the trust from all the guys around me, which is great. We know our potential and we know we have a great bike and race rider. Sincerely, when I was in the top five I already said “this is OK”, but arriving on the podium is something even better. I‘m very happy to start the season like this, because the podium is always better and, like was said, it comes after a difficult period. We have to continue like this. This result is very good for us, both for our feeling and also for the technical side, because we now understand a lot of things”
The next round will be held at the Termas de Río Hondo circuit, in Argentina, in two weeks‘ time.