The eye-watering financial cost of Maverick Vinales’ Yamaha MotoGP divorce

The decision by Yamaha to terminate its contract with Maverick Vinales should not be underestimated in terms of signifiance... or the financial cost

Maverick Vinales - Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP 2021

When the 2021 MotoGP World Championship resumes at Silverstone this weekend it will do so without one of its front runners as Yamaha stiffens its upper lip and moves on for a life without Maverick Vinales.

Much ink has been spilled over Vinales messy break-up-turned-divorce from Yamaha but the developing story of growing discontent doesn’t disguise the significance of the final outcome… not least the damage it does to Yamaha, Vinales himself and his bank balance.

A quick summary of how we got here… including some important points that may have been missed in the original reporting.

Vinales was suspended for the Austrian MotoGP after it emerged he had spent the last five laps of the Styrian MotoGP riding the M1 in low gears and over-revving it, thus threatening a catastrophic engine failure.

It came after a season of emanating frustration from the Spaniard at the inconsistencies in his performance that lurched from the highs of winning the Qatar opener to the lows of finishing last of all in the Sachsenring. The latter event led to sharp criticism from Vinales about the M1’s lack of competitiveness but insiders have suggested he wasn’t pushing in the race after crash pre-qualifying left him at the back of the grid.

At the heart of Vinales’ frustrations was growing disinterest from Yamaha itself as to his concerns, a cause perpetuated by new team-mate Fabio Quartararo’s terrific results on the same bike. With Yamaha beginning to turn his back on him, Vinales accelerated talks to get out of his 2022 MotoGP contract, which he succeeded in.

However, it was that disconnect from the engineers that ultimately led to Vinales’ Austrian MotoGP grievances when the clutch was replaced on his M1 during a red flag stoppage, despite him asking the team not to do so. He subsequently stalled on the warm-up lap and had to start from the pits.

His frustrations - compounded by two long lap penalties for track limit violations he claims not to have been warned about - bubbled over into him taking it out on the bike.

Yamaha was furious, he was suspended… cue sheepish apology.

Why the seriousness of Vinales’ actions can’t be underestimated

While one might think the eventual decision to part ways with Vinales was previewed by his suspension from Austria, the significance is much greater than that.

Up and down results notwithstanding, Vinales was still placed a solid seventh in the standings, which coupled with Quartararo’s efforts placed Yamaha just three points shy of a mighty four-strong Ducati Armada in the constructors’ standings - the championship Yamaha desires most.

Removing Vinales from the line-up puts Yamaha at its own disadvantage, even before you consider its ongoing headache as to how to fill two seats in its four-way line-up for next season, let alone mid-way through the year in the midst of a title battle.

Given the decision over whether to suspend Vinales from the Yamaha Factory team went all the way to board level, it’s a sure sign of how furious they are at him for damaging its reputation so as to punish itself as well in letting him go.

The financial - and personal - cost of losing a MotoGP ride mid-season

While Vinales had spoken of a calmness in his decision to leave Yamaha at the end of the 2021, walking away from a 2022 Yamaha deal alone would have cost him €10m. 

Of course money isn’t everything but Vinales might need some adjusting to a life without a regular wage rolling in.

We aren’t privy to the finer details of the termination, which might have included a ‘redundancy’ of sorts, but if Yamaha felt compelled to do so on the grounds of ‘negligence’ then it would have grounds for turning off the taps immediately.

If so, then another estimated €6.5m will slip through his fingers, even before you consider the bonuses for podiums and wins, plus whatever would come from potentially winning the constructors’ standings. 

While Vinales does have a deal for 2022 with Aprilia, he can expect a significant pay cut to around €1m, possibly less given the manufacturer would know he had few other options for next season. Then there are personal sponsors (Monster, Alpinestars) who might think twice about renewing as well.

Even so, while Aprilia was quick to soften the run of bad headlines for Vinales by confirming him for next season directly after the Austrian MotoGP weekend, Speedweek is reporting there has been something of a backlash against the Spaniard and his reputation has really suffered.

Indeed, Vinales was lucky not to have been cast adrift from the paddock altogether because if the engine had blown as a result of his action, it would have spewed oil on track and created a particularly dangerous situation for leaders coming around behind him. 

Even worse, he was still hitting the limiter in the pit lane, where marshals and personnel are congregating… one only has to imagine the implications of a worst case scenario there.

However, as one insider put it, the fact Vinales didn’t blow the engine is a combination of luck and his own incompetence, commenting: “Maverick's ineptitude culminated in the fact that he wasn't even able to ruin an engine in the race a week ago…”

Ouch. I mean thank goodness… but still ouch.