“What the heck is going on with Maverick Vinales?!?”
That’s the burning question rippling through the world of Moto GP right now. In this article, we do our best at breaking down the constantly-evolving story. Here’s the who, what, where, and why to everything going on (as we know):
What Did Vinales Even Do?
About two weeks ago, a bombshell was dropped: Vinales and Yamaha were soon to be no more. The relationship, one that’s existed since 2017, would end at the conclusion of the season — at the request of Vinales, not Yamaha. That’s one year shorter than the contract was originally inked for in early 2020.
In a wide-open MotoGP season, Vinales was expected to be a championship contender. It sure looked that way when the Spaniard won the season’s first race in Qatar. Since then? Vinales has finished on the podium only once. Though Yamaha has had a championship contender, only his name is Fabio Quartararo, not Vinales.
Amidst all this, the gripes between Vinales and fellow Yamaha teammates have grown louder and louder. Vinales hasn’t been shy about his criticism of the bike this year. After finishing 19th place at the German Grand Prix, reports even came out that Vinales felt “disrespected” by his team’s response to his bike issues.
Things finally reached a boiling point after the most recent race, the Dutch Tourist Trophy, as the two announced their exits the day after the race. All signs now point toward Yamaha having two empty seats at season’s end. Beyond Vinales, the legendary Valentino Rossi is likely retiring too, leaving Quartararo without serious inter-team challengers.
“The Vinales MotoGP” by roadracingworld is licensed under CC BY 3.0
Where Does Vinales Go From Here?
Of course, MotoGP is currently on a mini-holiday break. The next race isn’t until the Styria Grand Prix on August 8. It’s likely why the Yamaha-Vinales news dropped to “let the dust settle” for both parties in the meantime.
Still, Vinales did appear in front of the media only days ago. When asked about his future, the Spaniard kept his response short and sweet: “It is at a standstill.”
But let’s address the elephant in the room: Vinales is likely bound for Aprilia. No contract has been signed hence Vinales cryptic answer, but a pairing is in the best interests of both parties, no matter if Vinales says the talk is “not true.”
For the first time in a long time, Aprilia has put together quite the riding machine. Its bike model has earned plenty of fanfare in 2021. Not only that, it’s showing success, too. Fellow Spaniard Aleix Espargaro has used the bike to inch up to eight place in the Riders standings — only two spots behind Vinales.
For Aprilia, they need a big splash. They haven’t been threats to a world championship in the slightest. While Espargaro and teammate Lorenzo Savadori are solid riders, no one in their right mind thinks they have what it takes to be the world’s best.
You can’t say the same about Vinales. The 26-year-old is in the prime of his career. On four different occasions in MotoGP, he finished top-4 in the final rider standings. The talent is there — now he just needs the right bike and team, which Aprilia certainly thinks they have.
“Aprilia MotoGP” by Paultan is licensed under CC BY 3.0
What Should We Expect The Remainder Of The 2021 Season?
The biggest loser of this ordeal might be Quartararo. Half-way into the season, he’s atop the standings — 34 points ahead of fellow Frenchman Jogann Zarco. But now he must race with not only a giant target on his back, but this internal distraction, too.
For what it’s worth, Vinales is saying all the right things to the media. When asked about how he finishes this season, he had this to say: “For me, nothing changes. I will give everything I have and if they make me try things, I will try them and I will give them the right information. I will be a professional as I should be.”
Sure he will be. But you can’t expect some tension to seep into how Yamaha operates the rest of the way. It feels like this story is far from over…