Vinales set for shock switch to Aprilia next year

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

Maverick Vinales is set to make a bombshell move from Yamaha to Aprilia for the 2022 MotoGP season, dramatically breaking his contract at the end of the current season to join Aleix Espargaro on the rapidly improving Aprilia RS-GP.

The announcement should come only days after the worst race of Vinales’ MotoGP career for Yamaha at the German Grand Prix last week, when he finished dead last and outside the points for the first time ever.

Turning it around this weekend at the Dutch TT to start the race from pole position and as the clear favourite, he nonetheless insisted after qualifying that it didn’t mark an actual improvement in form but simply a change in track conditions, highlighting the chronic inconsistency that has plagued his Yamaha career ever since debuting for the manufacturer in 2017.

“The Yamaha, when you have good feeling and can create these things,” he said, “is a fantastic bike. You can do whatever you want with the bike on the track. But the problem is that it happens four times a year.”

Aprilia has been hunting for a top name to join Espargaro ever since Andrea Iannone was banned for doping at the end of the 2019 season, with a number of high-profile riders rejecting its offers of late.


However, with the new RS-GP showing a significant improvement in form over previous generations and with Aprilia the only factory space remaining on the 2022 grid, it’s believed that an announcement of Vinales’ swap could come as soon as the next few days after frantic negotiations this weekend at Assen have led to a deal being rapidly agreed between Vinales, Yamaha and Aprilia.

Vinales announced a two-year contract extension with Yamaha at the start of the 2020 season that would keep him with the team until the end of 2022 – but with poor results and bitter comments in the media, there will be an escape clause in the deal should both sides agree to execute it.

It remains to be seen what Yamaha will elect to do to fill the space left by Vinales, but the easiest solution would no doubt be to promote 2020 championship runner-up Franco Morbidelli from the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha team, where he currently relies on two-year-old machinery.

Should he get the nod to step up, leaving the Malaysian team in need of a whole new rider line-up following the expected retirement of Valentino Rossi, it seems that Moto2 rider Raul Fernandez would once again move to the top of its shopping list.


Fernandez confirmed yesterday that he was prepared to remain in the middleweight class for another year, and it’s believed that Yamaha rejected the chance to spend €500,000 to buy him out of his factory KTM contract. But should both budget and a space become available following Vinales’ departure, it’s expected in the paddock that Yamaha would renew its efforts to sign him.

“For me going to MotoGP, everybody asks this, but at the end, KTM says that they will bring me the opportunity to stay another season in Moto2 and I’m really happy for this,” Fernandez explained after qualifying and before the Vinales news broke.

“Also in the summer break I will speak with them, but at the moment I know that I will stay in Moto2 another season.

Another name who could potentially be on Yamaha’s shopping list is three-time series runner-up Andrea Dovizioso. The Italian, who is currently Aprilia’s test rider, seems to have left it too late to make a decision on whether to join the team for 2022 and has had the seat stolen out from underneath him by Vinales.

Other names linked to a move to Petronas Yamaha even prior to the news of Vinales’ Yamaha departure are the team’s current Moto2 rider Jake Dixon, with series organiser Dorna keen to see a British rider on the grid to step into the gap left by the retirement of Cal Crutchlow, and Turkish World Superbike frontrunner Toprak Razgatlıoğlu, who has enjoyed a strong start to the 2021 season in the production racing class.

A second option from WSB could be American Garett Gerloff, who will ride on Sunday in place of the injured Morbidelli in something of the ultimate job interview. Dorna is also keen to have American representation on the grid, pushing Moto2 rider Joe Roberts towards the Aprilia seat that Vinales will now take – meaning that Gerloff could be under extra pressure to perform at Assen.

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