Is Maverick Vinales lining up Ducati MotoGP 2021 move?

Yamaha's Lin Jarvis wants to keep Maverick Vinales in the team beyond 2020 as rumours grow he could join Ducati for the 2021 MotoGP season

Maverick Vinales - Yamaha

Yamaha Racing managing director says he would be ‘happy’ to keep Maverick Vinales inside the team for 2021 and beyond as rumours gather pace he could be compelled to look elsewhere when contract talks begin.

The Spaniard joined Yamaha from Suzuki in 2017 and immediately stamped his mark with three wins from his first five races riding the YZF-M1, while he is the only Yamaha rider to score a victory in each of the last three seasons.

However, Vinales’ form has also fluctuated in that period, with unassailable speed on occasional race days being tempered by anonymous performances elsewhere.

It means that despite being Yamaha’s top representative overall in 2019, he was largely overshadowed in terms of publicity by satellite rookie rider Fabio Quartararo, while he doesn’t attract the same star power of his Monster Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.

With Petronas SRT rider Quartararo being upgraded to a factory-spec Yamaha M1 next season, there is talk the Frenchman is being primed for a full factory seat in 2021 at the expense of either Vinales or Rossi. It comes amid speculation Vinales is also within the sights of Ducati, which could lead the race for his signature at renewal-time.

Despite this, Jarvis believes Vinales has a future at Yamaha regardless of Quartararo and Rossi, saying he wants him to stay on board in 2021 and beyond.

"Maverick started the year not in a good way, he was struggling after the first 5-6 grands prix and it was Valentino outperforming him. Maverick was a little bit lost, but I think we then saw the benefit of the changes we made to the team for him, his new crew chief Esteban Garcia and Julian Simon as rider coach.

"It's really encouraging to see him improve throughout the year, and improve his starts! He's definitely re-found his place in the factory team, shown his potential. He's the only Yamaha rider that has won races this year and I would certainly be happy to have him stay with us in 2021 and beyond."

Maverick Vinales to take control of his MotoGP future?

He was Yamaha’s only race winner in 2019 and finished third in the overall standings… yet Vinales still spent his year being overshadowed by both Quartararo and Rossi, so much so that of the trio it is the Spaniard that is arguably most under threat for his seat for 2021.

Vinales’ time sensitive quandary lies with Rossi and whether he will continue into 2021 or retire. Though Vinales has comfortably begun out-performing Rossi on a regular basis now, the Italian’s sheer star power and commercial attractiveness means he will only ever jump Yamaha, rather than be pushed.

Moreover, Quartararo is now hot property in the rider market and Yamaha may struggle to keep him on board beyond 2020 if it can’t guarantee him a factory seat.

If this all takes time to shake out, Vinales may feel compelled to solve Yamaha’s problem by accepting a deal elsewhere. Though somewhat inconsistent, Vinales has extraordinary raw speed – especially over a single lap - and rarely makes big errors, making him something of a coup for any rival team.

Ducati seems most interested and, based on Vinales’ riding style, seems a logical choice. However, Ducati has a congested line-up at the moment with Andrea Dovizioso, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia and now even Johann Zarco fighting over resources.

If there is no space at Ducati then Suzuki represents an enticing proposition. The Japanese team has come on leaps and bounds since Vinales raced there, making any potential reunion a very potent partnership indeed.

As for Honda, Vinales will unlikely join while Marc Marquez is there, while KTM seems satisfied with its burgeoning young line-up for now too.

All eyes may be on Rossi and Marquez to decide their immediate futures, but for rival teams it is Vinales that seems best primed for a high-profile poach…