MotoGP: Maverick Vinales confirmed as an Aprilia rider for 2022
Maverick Viñales will be an Aprilia MotoGP rider next season following his early release from Yamaha.
At the Dutch TT at Assen it was revealed that Viñales had requested to be released from his two-year contract at the end of 2021, with Aprilia the likely destination. Yamaha agreed to terminate Viñales contract at the end of the season, with Franco Morbidelli his likely replacement.
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Since then, barring a brief link with Valentino Rossi's Ducati team, it's been a matter of when, rather than if, Viñales would make the deal with Aprilia official. Viñales’ relationship with Yamaha reached boiling point last week when the Spaniard was suspended, accused of trying to deliberately over-revving his engine at the Grand Prix of Styria.
It's not yet known whether Vinales will be welcomed back by Yamaha for the remainder of the year, after missing the Austrian Grand Prix, however he has signed 'an annual contract with an option for renewal' with Aprilia. The Italian team will become classified as a full factory outfit next year, following their split with Gresini Racing, who will return as an independant team with Ducati.
"We are extremely happy to announce that we have signed Maverick Viñales, a very high-level rider and one of the purest talents in the premier category," Aprilia Racing CEO Massimo Rivola said. "Our project has now been enriched with the value that Maverick brings - a World Champion who has confirmed his talent as a top rider in MotoGP - at a time of great change, after bringing a completely revamped bike to the track and having consistently established ourselves in the group of protagonists, we are also facing a switch in status as a Factory Team now, in order to take Aprilia to success.
"We are honoured to be able to make all of our best skills available to Viñales along with our enthusiasm and our passion. I am confident that, like Aleix, he will embrace this extremely high-potential project. The arrival of Maverick in no way distances Lorenzo Savadori from the team, as he will remain an integral part of the Aprilia Racing family."
Viñales, the 2013 Moto3 champion, has nine premier class victories to his name, with 28 podiums and 13 pole positions. He started his time with Yamaha brightly in 2017, winning three of the opening five races. Since then, his fortunes have been mixed on the M1, and Vinales has often spoken of his frustrations with the bike and, sometimes, his team.
Viñales won the 2021 season-opener in Qatar but didn't return to the podium until Assen, whilst he was sixth overall when he was suspended.
The 26-year-old will be teammates with Aleix Espargaro for the second time in the premier class, with the duo having spent two years together at Suzuki. The switch to the RS-GP certainly won't be an easy one. Despite making vast improvements over the last 18 months, Aprilia still hasn't recorded a top five finish and is the only manufacturer on the grid without a podium or victory in the MotoGP era.
Espargaro's best result of 2021 has been sixth, at Portimao and Jerez, whilst he also secured Aprilia's front row start at the Sachsenring.
Viñales’ arrival means that current Aprilia test rider Andrew Dovizioso is unlikely to re-join the MotoGP grid following his decision to take a sabbatical from racing.
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