until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Will Vinales and Yamaha even last the MotoGP season together?

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Since the column below was written, it has obviously been completely overshadowed by this morning’s incredible revelation that Vinales will be suspended for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

That’s because of the absolutely exceptional and unprecedented claim by Yamaha that he deliberately sabotaged his bike during last weekend’s race – news that undoubtedly spells the end to his time as a Yamaha rider.

It’s hard to quantify just how much of a bombshell such a strongly worded statement is from a factory team – especially to state in unequivocal terms what its reasoning is, in a statement that will have been vetted by Yamaha’s legal team.

The fact that it has stunned the MotoGP paddock reflects that – it is definitely not a scenario that came to mind when writing my thoughts on what his future held!

We’ve decided to leave the column that follows on The Race in its original form as it’s an unusual case of an opinion being very rapidly superseded by an incredible event – and because the majority of the discussion of Vinales and Yamaha’s relationship remains valid.

But with claims of sabotage in the mix, the conclusion about the chances of Vinales leaving Yamaha earlier is definitely now outdated! – Simon Patterson

Halfway through the 2021 MotoGP season, it’s an open secret that things are bad inside the works Yamaha camp – or at least on one side of the team’s pit box.

Maverick Vinales, already set to leave at the end of the year after breaking his contract, seems desperately unhappy, and it’s being reflected in his results.

But are things bad enough to lead to the Spaniard not even seeing out the rest of the season?

Maverick Vinales

The relationship between Vinales and the team hasn’t exactly been plain sailing for quite some time – but it has undoubtedly taken a turn for the worse in the past few weeks.

All coming to a head in the embarrassment of finishing the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring in last place, things have got worse rather than better since then despite a brief upturn in form for him.

In fact, the mood within the team was actually highlighted not by failure but by success, with an atmosphere in the winners’ enclosure so tense you could have cut it with a butter knife after Vinales finished second to team-mate Fabio Quartararo at the Dutch TT only a week after his humiliating Germany result.

He’s since apologised for the disrespect he showed to his fans with his attitude after the second placed finish, but it was nonetheless too late to change much – with news coming less than 24 hours later confirming that Vinales would part ways with the team for next season.

He’s taking the very rare step of breaking his two-year contract at the halfway point and looking set to lose a colossal amount of money as he makes the (still to be officially announced) switch to Aprilia.

Aug 12 : Why Yamaha has suspended Vinales

There was hope that taking some time away from the paddock for MotoGP’s extended five-week summer break would give Vinales the chance to calm down and reset his brain, but it seems like that has failed to happen.

He turned up for the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring knowing that it was going to be a difficult weekend for Yamaha thanks to the track layout, and it turned into a complete disaster as Vinales blamed a litany of issues for his poor race – problems that eventually led him to pull into the pits with only a lap to go to seemingly avoid the ignominy of finishing in last place for the second time in three races.


Making matters even worse, team-mate Quartararo had none of the same issues, fighting forward to an excellent and somewhat unexpected podium finish behind Jorge Martin and Joan Mir.

It’s clear from body language alone that things on the other side of the garage are far from fixed – and with incredibly manic interviews to the media over the course of the weekend, Vinales is very clearly deeply unhappy with his position within the team.


Which begs the question: is there a chance that we’ll see the nine-time MotoGP race winner fail to even finish the season with Yamaha?

After all, there is precedent for the switch, with KTM pulling off exactly the same move in 2019 when it parted ways with Johann Zarco.

Like Vinales at Yamaha, Zarco was deeply unhappy at being unable to find performance from the RC16, he too was accused of making the garage a deeply unhappy workplace, and after he and KTM initially announced plans to end their two-year deal a year early things continued to get even worse and Zarco was paid to stay at home for the final six races of the year.

Arguably Yamaha has an even better replacement option than KTM had at the time, too, in the shape of test rider Cal Crutchlow.

While Zarco was replaced by Finnish racer Mika Kallio, Yamaha has a proven three-time MotoGP race winner who it could drop into Vinales’ place.

But as much as Vinales might actually be hoping for some sort of release from his Yamaha deal given the impact continuing with the team seems to be having on him, the reality is that the situation between him and Zarco is inherently different thanks to one key detail: culture.

Much is made of the difference in MotoGP between the corporate culture of the traditional Japanese factories and the very different approach taken by the relative newcomer European teams.

KTM in particular has an air of ruthlessness about it – just look at the way the sacking of Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona was handled last weekend while the pair were on track for free practice four.

That’s not the way that Yamaha does things. It’s a much less impulsive company, sometimes to its detriment – and this is very likely to mean that Vinales has a long second half of the season ahead as he grits his teeth and bears it.

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