until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Vinales is free to race for Aprilia immediately. He must do it

by Simon Patterson
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Friday morning’s news that Maverick Vinales is parting with Yamaha immediately rather than seeing his deal out to its already early conclusion at the end of the 2021 MotoGP season opened the door for a very big question to be asked.

We know he’ll be on an Aprilia in 2022. What about the rest of 2021?

As of Friday morning, Vinales is now free to ride whatever he can secure for the remainder of the 2021 season.

The “mutual decision” – a key point stressed multiple times in the team’s announcement – means that Vinales can now look to his future plans earlier than anticipated.

“The early separation will release the rider to be free to follow his chosen future direction,” said Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis, emphasising that Vinales has been effectively made a free agent rather than kept on gardening leave and prevented from riding for another manufacturer in the interim.

And with Aprilia’s second seat alongside Aleix Espargaro currently being occupied by rapidly-promoted former test rider Lorenzo Savadori on something of an interim basis, it makes complete sense for Aprilia to fast forward its plans and to place its 2022 signing on its machine sooner rather than later.

With pre-season testing minimal and even Aprilia restricted in the number of private tests it can conduct with its race racers (and those tests are a privilege only granted to Aprilia as the last remaining concession status team), Vinales is set to have only six days of testing between the end of the current season and the first race of 2022.

Maverick Vinales

And after five years of riding Yamaha machinery (and an entire MotoGP career spent on inline-four engined bikes given he’d previously been at Suzuki), there is every possibility that the transition to Aprilia’s V4 bike will take time to completely master.

A very different machine with different positives and negatives to the M1, the RS-GP’s strengths come in stability and braking rather than on cornering like the Yamaha – and will require a riding style adaptation that can really only be completed with practice rather than by training on other machinery.

You only have to look at the example set by Repsol Honda rider Pol Espargaro, who has spent much of the 2021 season struggling to change his style to suit the low rear grip characteristics of the Honda after four years with KTM.

“We have no traction,” the Spaniard explained last weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix.

“The edge grip is zero, we pick up the bike and it spins, we ruin the tyre, and we can’t stop the bike because the tyre is locking up.

“I’m a guy who uses the rear brake a lot, braking in the middle of the corner to turn the bike. I live on the rear brake – and here I can’t even touch it.

“We’re putting in super hard springs so that I can avoid it, because my body is trying automatically to hammer the rear brake to make the bike turn.

“Slowly, it’s killing my riding style and I can’t take anything at all from my style to make the lap time. I’m struggling.”

Pol Espargaro

There is no guarantee, of course, that Vinales will struggle to adapt as much as his fellow Spaniard will, especially as the RS-GP is a much more forgiving bike than Honda’s animal of an RC213V.

But when there’s an opportunity for what would essentially be free testing time ahead of the start of a dedicated campaign in 2022, it’s simply too good an opportunity for Aprilia to turn down.

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