Maverick Vinales drops hint he will leave Yamaha at end of 2020 MotoGP
Maverick Vinales has dropped a hint that he may look for a new team for the 2021 MotoGP World Championship season as he faces growing competition from Fabio Quartararo for his factory Yamaha ride.
The Spaniard, who joined Yamaha at the start of the 2017 MotoGP season, has endured a tumultuous time with the manufacturer with flashes of scintillating performance – particularly at the beginning of his tenure - tempered by various other lacklustre showings.
As it stands though, he is the only Yamaha rider to have won races since 2017 – a total of five, including one this year at Assen – and he is the highest-placed M1 rider in the 2019 MotoGP standings in fourth.
However, he has been overshadowed on several occasions by Quartararo’s startlingly quick turns on the satellite Petronas SRT, with the Frenchman tipped to be in line for a factory move for the 2021 MotoGP season regardless of whether Valentino Rossi decides to retire or not.
As such, Vinales is also pondering his options to ensure he isn’t frozen out when the annual wave of contractual negotiations start.
In an interview with Spanish publication AS, Vinales was quizzed on his plans beyond 2020 where he admits he is unsure of whether his future lies with Yamaha.
"I do not know if it is best to continue,” he says. “Now we are making the difference, but the future is never known. In the end we will have to choose what is best for us."
Which team could Maverick Vinales join in MotoGP 2021?
Based on the current contract cycle, Vinales could have the pick of the manufacturers and stands to become the key component of the annual ‘silly season’.
A rider that burst onto the MotoGP scene with Suzuki in 2015 and with whom he enjoyed arguably his best results given the machine he was working with, some see Vinales as being primed for a return to a manufacturer that may feel compelled to build their team around him.
With the Suzuki GSX-RR having come on leaps and bounds since then, Vinales’ stumbling block could ultimately be the rider he was replaced by – Alex Rins – who is doing a stellar job on the machine right now.
Then there is the prospect of a Vinales-Ducati pairing that many in the know believes offers a very tantalising prospect given his riding style.
There is also Honda, but Jorge Lorenzo’s wel-publicised struggles on a bike moulded around Marc Marquez may well consign the second bike alongside the six-time MotoGP World Champion to ‘poison chalice’ status.
The enigma that is Maverick Vinales
The rapid rise of MotoGP rookie Quartararo has seen him move front and centre of the equation when it comes to discussing Yamaha’s future, so much so that is evidently prompting Vinales to ask questions of his own favour at the manufacturer.
Vinales’ career has been largely defined by unmatched speed interspersed by weekends where he barely features towards the front. More recently, he has been particularly quick in qualifying – and was on pole at Misano – but slow starts to races, followed by rapid pace in the closing laps that come just too late for him to improve his position, have typified his most recent events.
More problematic for Vinales is the fact that while he’s largely had the measure of Rossi in the second half of this season, he has been matched – and beaten several times – by Quartararo, in so doing overshadowing his own achievements and evident gains made in recent races.
With Rossi deferring a decision over his future until he gets his hands on the 2020 Yamaha M1, it’s hard to believe Yamaha would be willing to drop him if he wanted to continue.
But like we say, he is the only Yamaha rider to win races since 2017 and he is comfortably the highest-placed M1 rider with a good shot at a top three spot in the standings based on current form.
Based on those hard facts, this presents a problem for Yamaha… and that is even before we consider Johann Zarco could be placed in the mix if he comes on board as test rider.
Alternatively, Yamaha may prefer to hold Quartararo at Petronas SRT in the meantime on a current-specification machine but it might be a hard sell to the in-demand youngster to stay put for two more years.
Many sense they haven’t seen the best from Vinales as yet and a move away from Yamaha – and perhaps Rossi’s overarching influence on the team - could be the trick to unlock that potential.
It seems he is sensing that too... and it might just solve a looming rider selection problem for Yamaha in the process.