Is this the final twist to end Maverick Vinales' tumultuous tale at Yamaha?

In a year of twists and turns in the relationship of Maverick Vinales and Yamaha, it appears the latest shocker could be the final sting in the tale...

Maverick Vinales - Yamaha MotoGP

MotoGP has seen its fair share of shocking revelations over the years but the news - not to mention the startling reasons as to why - Maverick Vinales has been benched by Yamaha for this weekend’s Austrian MotoGP is certainly… surprising.

While the statement from Yamaha says Vinales has only been dropped for the second of the back-to-back Red Bull Ring events, many will feel this will mark the abrupt conclusion of a relationship that was already fracturing.

At this moment, the statement from Yamaha raises more questions than answers and will no doubt lead to some feverish clamouring by journalists for a clearer explanation from Lin Jarvis in Austria this weekend.

However,  while the statement is short on detail, the tone is strong, the accusations serious and the subject matter unprecedented.

What is Yamaha accusing Maverick Vinales of?

In the absence of a formal explanation, here’s some background as to how we got here. Vinales qualified ninth for the Styrian MotoGP and ran strongly during the initial three laps of the first start, before a red flag was deployed in the wake of Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori’s incident.

During the break, Yamaha changed the clutch on Vinales’ M1, seemingly conscious that the existing unit would overheat if used a second time on the Red Bull Ring’s uphill startline. However, Vinales claimed that when he engaged it, the engine cut out, leading him to stall and be wheeled back into the pit-lane, where he proceeded to make his restart.

He went to say the engine was making unusual sounds and he was getting glitchy readings on the dashboard, leading him to retire.

However, it would appear Yamaha hasn’t accepted his reasoning and instead pointed the finger of blame towards Vinales, accusing him of exhibiting ‘unusual operation of a motorcycle’  that caused ‘significant damage to the engine’.

Insiders suggest this could be down to Vinales ‘over-revving’ the engine, though it is worth noting the Yamaha M1 is down on power compared with its rivals and has regularly struggled to keep pace at the high-speed Red Bull Ring over the years.

What next for Maverick Vinales and Yamaha?

More will no doubt come to light this weekend as to exactly why Yamaha felt so justified so as to suspend its own rider for what it suggests is a deliberate or careless act of sabotage.

However, it will call into question whether Vinales will be seen on the Factory Yamaha M1 again given the fractious relationship between the two parties.

One of the more reserved and coy MotoGP riders on the grid compared with his rivals, Vinales has become increasingly outspoken in the search for answers as to why he has been unable to maintain consistency in his form.

Having directed his ire at the Yamaha team in the wake of finishing last of all on a dismal German MotoGP weekend, it was swiftly announced a week later that he would be departing at the end of the season rather than see out his contract to the end of the 2022 season.

If Yamaha’s claims are accurate then his suspension this weekend would set a precedence for dropping him from the team altogether. On the other hand, if Yamaha’s claims are unfounded then it would take some serious pride swallowing for te two parties to reconcile.

Looking forward, Vinales has been closely linked with joining Aprilia for the 2022 MotoGP season but several weeks have passed since then. It remains to be seen whether this revelation - if indeed true - has any bearing on any deal.

If Vinales has indeed started his final race for Yamaha, the question begs as to who would replace him.

While Franco Morbidelli would be a natural choice given he is widely expected to be replacing Vinales in the Factory team next year anyway, MotoGP’s engine allocation regulations mean it would take special dispensation from the FIM to port him onto another bike.

As such, this could pave the way for Cal Crutchlow to make a more formal return to action, having returned to the grid in Austria this weekend as the replacement for the injured Morbidelli at Petronas SRT.

More will no doubt be coming to light today as the Austrian MotoGP press conference kick start with one question (well, several questions) on everyone’s lips