MotoGP: Maverick Vinales to leave Yamaha at the end of 2021 season

Maverick Vinales will leave Yamaha at the end of the season
Maverick Vinales will leave Yamaha at the end of the season

Maverick Vinales and Yamaha will go their separate ways at the end of the 2021 MotoGP season following the rider’s request to end their two-year deal early.

Rumours began to circulate on Saturday even that Vinales was in talks to terminate his Yamaha contract in favour of joining Aprilia for the 2022 campaign. The relationship between Yamaha and Vinales has been on the rocks for a long time but reached boiling point at the Sachsenring.

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Vinales qualified 21st and finished the race in last position to complete his worst-ever weekend in the premier class. Post-race Vinales hit out at his team, suggesting that their response to his problems with the M1 in recent times was disrespectful.

Remarkably, just a few days after the GermanGP, Vinales topped three free practice sessions, secured pole position, and finished second at Assen at the weekend. However, the damage had already been done and clearly the relationship was unrepairable.

“This partnership has been very significant to me over the last five years, and it proved a difficult decision to part ways,” Vinales said in today’s official statement. “In these seasons together, we experienced both great achievements and tough times. However, the underlying feeling is of mutual respect and appreciation. I am fully committed and will strive to achieve the best results for the rest of the season.”

Vinales joined the factory Yamaha team in 2017 and made a fantastic start to life as Valentino Rossi’s teammate. Vinales won three of the opening five races that year, however inconsistency and bike problems would lead to several issues in the campaigns that followed.

During his five-year stint with Yamaha, at the time of writing, Vinales has won eight races, secured 16 further podiums and taken 13 pole positions. The Spaniard finished third overall in 2017 and 2019.

“It is with sadness that we will say farewell to Maverick at the end of the year,” Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis added. “We are in the middle of our fifth season together and over the years we have achieved many highs but also had to manage many lows.

“After the German GP, which was the most difficult weekend of our partnership, we had important discussions in Assen and came to the conclusion that it would be in the interest of both parties to go our separate ways in the future. Yamaha will put in their maximum effort – as we always have done – to give full support to Maverick and finish this season in the very best way possible.”

Aprilia appears to be the most likely destination for Vinales, alongside Aleix Espargaro on the RS-GP. The possible move has shocked most people given Aprilia’s lack of success in MotoGP. The RS-GP is yet the podium in the premier class but is steadily making progress in the hands of Espargaro. However, it would still be seen as a backwards step for Vinales.

Vinales has also been linked with a possible move to Aramco Racing Team VR46. Rossi’s team will compete in the premier class with Ducati next year and may well want an experienced rider to line-up alongside Luca Marini. Ducati were believed to have been in discussions with Vinales in 2019 before he signed a new two-year deal with Yamaha.

At Yamaha, Franco Morbidelli would be the most obvious replacement for Vinales within the factory squad. The Petronas Yamaha rider was runner-up last season and, despite a knee injury, has been getting the most out of his two-year-old A-Spec M1. Morbidelli does have a Petronas contract for next season though, so Yamaha would need to pay compensation.

Other names being linked with both Yamaha teams include Moto2’s Raul Fernandez and Marco Bezzecchi, as well as World Superbike riders Toprak Razgatlioglu and Garrett Gerloff. The latter made his full-time MotoGP debut with Petronas Yamaha at Assen, standing in for Morbidelli.

Vinales is the third rider to get out of a contract prematurely in recent years. Johann Zarco ended his time with KTM just six months into a two-year deal, whilst Jorge Lorenzo only completed one of his two years with Repsol Honda in 2019.