Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales has led the latest wave of criticism from within the manufacturer’s ranks, complaining bitterly after Sunday’s European Grand Prix about the position that the team has once again found itself in.
After a season in which he’s been fast on occasion and yet completely inconsistent, the pitlane start for Vinales at Valencia all but ended any title aspirations he might have had, after he was forced to serve the penalty for using a sixth engine during what became Yamaha’s weekend from hell.
“There are decisions that are not chosen well and then we pay for it all year long” :: Maverick Vinales
However, his title aspirations were arguably over well before he rode from pitlane to 13th at Valencia, thanks to the persistent issues that have plagued Yamaha not only in 2020 but since he first joined the team in 2017.
“The problem is that you go from winning a race to being 14th without understanding why,” he told journalists at Valencia.
“That throws your mind off a lot. Every race you have to reset, and that situation is very tiring and very frustrating.
“I understand Fabio [Quartararo] because I have already experienced this for a few years at Yamaha.
“I always have hope, because in the end I always end up signing with Yamaha because I believe in the project, and otherwise I would not be here.
“But there are decisions that are not chosen well and then we pay for it all year long.
“The problem is that it is a motorcycle with a very small working window. I like to watch previous videos, and for example in 2016, Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were first and second in any circumstance.
“Take a reference from that year and the bike worked very well. Even when [Johann] Zarco was here, in many circuits he beat us [with an older-spec, 2016 bike].
“They had a motorcycle that worked on all occasions, even in the wet. Then you had a good reference, and Yamaha has bikes from previous years that were champions.”
Current satellite rider and Vinales’ 2021 factory team-mate Fabio Quartararo was in complete agreement with the Spaniard. Virtually ruled out of title contention by a crash in Sunday’s race, he too knows that in reality Yamaha’s recent performances had more to do with his championship downfall than his own error.
And, with the title race all but over, his goal for the remaining two races of 2020 will be to try to fix as many of the team’s issues as possible – something that’s easier said than done thanks to an engine development freeze for 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We know that we will start with the same base next year, but we need to see where we can improve because the others can improve every race and the result is double podium, double podium, double podium,” the Petronas SRT Yamaha rider said when asked about the situation by The Race.
“We can win, but apart from at Jerez I don’t think we’ve made a double podium – and Suzuki can do it with only two bikes [as opposed to Yamaha’s four].
“We need to discuss what we need to improve. I have quite a clear idea about where we’ve already had some problems this year and where we can work better next year, but if we can avoid stupid mistakes it would be great.”
Suzuki’s Joan Mir can claim the championship in next weekend’s Valencia race, having moved 37 points clear of nearest rival Quartararo by leading team-mate Alex Rins in a 1-2 yesterday.
Vinales is 41 points off Mir with 50 still available, but said that even without that daunting maths Yamaha’s lack of form means he cannot think about the title.
“Mir has to make a mistake and I need to win a race and finish second in another one,” he admitted after Sunday’s performance, “so I can’t even think about it.
“Right now, I’m thinking about other things, because we’re very far away in speed and this is what we need to recover.”