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Maverick Vinales – A timeline of his Yamaha MotoGP exit

On Friday morning Yamaha confirmed it had parted ways with Maverick Vinales with immediate effect, bringing to an end a complicated chapter in MotoGP history.

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Vinales joined Yamaha for the 2017 season having made waves in his first two years in the premier class with Suzuki, in which he won his maiden MotoGP race at Silverstone in 2016.

Signed as the future prospect who could fill the outgoing Jorge Lorenzo’s shoes and act as a safeguard to Yamaha’s future once Valentino Rossi finally hung up his helmet, a fraught four-and-a-half years has come to an end in bitter circumstances.

Here is a timeline of how the Vinales/Yamaha relationship evolved and deteriorated between 2016 and 2021.

19 May 2016 – Vinales signs two-year deal with Yamaha

Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi at the 2016 British MotoGP

Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi at the 2016 British MotoGP

Photo by: Kevin Wood

“With great pleasure Yamaha announced the signing of Maverick Vinales”

On the eve of the 2016 Italian Grand Prix, Yamaha finally announced it had signed Vinales on a two-year contract to begin from 2017.

Jorge Lorenzo had already signed for Ducati and Vinales had been linked to Yamaha for some time, though the young Spanish rider was deeply torn between joining the factory Yamaha squad or remaining with Suzuki.

Having been brought into MotoGP in 2015 by Suzuki after just a year in Moto2, Vinales was the paddock’s hottest property by 2016 – a status only further boosted by his maiden MotoGP podium at Le Mans just two weeks prior to his Yamaha signing.

At the time, Vinales said of his Yamaha deal: “Finally I decided to move, to go to Yamaha factory and I think it’s a really important part of my career because I will grow up a lot.

“Finally, I am really grateful to Suzuki because they trust me a lot and try to give me the best bike they can. They’ve done a great job.”

16 November 2016 – Vinales tops first official MotoGP test as a Yamaha rider

Maverick Vinales at the 2016 Valencia MotoGP test

Maverick Vinales at the 2016 Valencia MotoGP test

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The post-season Valencia test at the end of 2016 was the first chance the world got to see Maverick Vinales on a factory Yamaha.

Though not a novice by this point, Vinales nevertheless impressed immensely after topping the two-day test outright on his M1 0.196s clear of reigning world champion Marc Marquez on the Honda.

Topping test timesheets would become a common theme for Vinales at Yamaha, but at the time it had all tongues wagging.

Having already won a grand prix in 2016 at Silverstone, Vinales topping the Valencia test on his first Yamaha outing only further vindicated Yamaha’s decision to sign him.

16 March 2017 – Vinales wins on Yamaha debut in Qatar

Maverick Vinales at the 2017 Qatar MotoGP

Maverick Vinales at the 2017 Qatar MotoGP

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“I felt as strong as the result shows”

In a complicated Qatar GP opening weekend, which had its qualifying cancelled due to rain in the desert and a lack of drainage.

But Vinales topped the practice sessions outright as he began his first season with Yamaha in strong fashion, which netted him pole and he would convert that to victory on his Yamaha debut after an intense race with Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso and Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.

Vinales would go on to win the following round in Argentina and beat Rossi in a thrilling French GP in May to tally up his third victory in five races.

But his title hopes would crumble across the 2017 campaign as the M1 proved to be inconsistent, with Vinales only scoring four more podiums on his way to third in the standings as Yamaha reached a desperate juncture by the final round, in which both Vinales and Rossi raced the 2016 version of the M1.

24 January 2018 – Vinales signs new two-year Yamaha deal

Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“I feel really good inside the team”

Despite his debut Yamaha season turning from dream to nightmare as the 2017 M1 proved inconsistent, all was well within the Vinales camp as 2018 dawned.

In fact, the relationship between both parties was seemingly so good that Vinales signed a new two-year deal to cover 2019 and 2020 before the 2018 pre-season tests got underway.

“I especially feel the desire to win, which is something I identify with and something I want,” Vinales said at the time of Yamaha after signing his new contract.

“We make a good compromise and for both of us it will be special.

“So, thank you to Yamaha because they’ve made my dreams come true – let’s see if this season we can do it again.”

The 2018 season, however, would prove to be even more difficult for Vinales.

16 October 2018 – Cracks in the Vinales/Yamaha relationship begin to show

Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“For my part, I felt a little forgotten”

From the first nine races Vinales scored just three podiums on an M1 that looked to have taken a step back on its already inconsistent predecessor, all the while Tech3’s Johann Zarco was generally stronger than the factory Yamaha duo on his 2016 M1 in the opening rounds.

Vinales tried to adapt his M1 to the way Zarco was riding his by trying a new seat position in the Barcelona test, but found that the 2018 Yamaha didn’t work in this set-up.

The nadir of Yamaha’s 2018 campaign came in Austria, when the Japanese marque publicly apologised to both riders after qualifying 11th and 14th. While Rossi recovered to sixth, Vinales slid to 12th in the race.

Within Vinales’ garage, his relationship with crew chief Ramon Forcada was deteriorating and frustration boiled over in the latter part of the season during the Thailand weekend when Vinales took aim at Yamaha management for its handling of the situation.

“We have to be patient and hope Yamaha will be competitive again,” Vinales told Sky Italy.

“I have two more years on the contract, and I must have faith. Neither [team boss] Lin [Jarvis] nor [team manager Massimo] Meregalli have managed the current situation in the best way.

“For my part, I felt a little forgotten. It’s important to feel we are a team, and that is something I have been missing. I wish I had received a hug at some point; it would have been fine.

“It’s important to give hugs not only when things go well but also when they go wrong to make you feel a little better.”

Vinales would claim Yamaha’s first win in over a year in Australia to claim fourth in the standings, while for 2019 he would be reunited with his 2013 Moto3 title-winning crew chief Esteban Garcia.

28 January 2020 – Vinales signs new two-year deal with Yamaha

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“There were no reasons not to stay with Yamaha”

The 2019 season started off in difficult fashion for Vinales as he continued to struggle with a lack of early-race pace on a full fuel load.

But a victory at the Dutch TT - having scored a third in Spain before that point – would lead him on to take another victory in Malaysia having fought until a last-lap crash for the win in Australia, ending the campaign third in the standings.

Over the winter Vinales had interest from Ducati about joining the marque for 2021, but ultimately decided to stay with Yamaha after signing a new two-year deal at the start of 2020.

While Vinales may have been enthusiastic about the new deal in press releases, he admitted earlier in 2021 that a new offer of a two-year deal from Yamaha came as a surprise.

“I think I have a really good relationship with Yamaha Japan,” Vinales said at Assen in June.

“I think they are great, with the president, the guys on all these things. They put a lot of enthusiasm and courage [into me], so I was pretty… when they signed be again in 2020, I was pretty like ‘what?’, because I could not give my maximum, I tell the team that I’m not giving up and I don’t know why I’m not able [to give my maximum].

“And they signed me again for two more years, and for the point where I am now, I don’t understand why.”

22 November 2020 – Vinales’ frustrations come through stronger

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“It has been a total disaster, my worst season of my career”

Despite the fact it won half of the 14 races of the COVID-affected 2020 campaign, last year was an utter disaster for Yamaha.

In the pre-season it elected to go in a direction with its M1 Vinales and Fabio Quartararo weren’t happy with, which is something that would haunt Yamaha across the 2020 campaign through wildly inconsistent form.

Its performance woes were only hindered further when it was forced to withdraw two engines from each rider’s allocation due to use of illegal valves after the Spanish GP.

As one of Vinales’ engines expired during the opening Spanish GP weekend, he had to complete the season with just two engines – and ultimately had to exceed his allocation in Valencia, netting him a pitlane start.

To make its engines last, Yamaha had to reduce revs, making an already slow bike even slower in a straightline. Vinales continued to struggle in the early laps of races, while a lack of rear grip during races constantly plagued him.

Vinales won just once, in the Emilia Romagna GP when he profited from a late crash for long-time leader Francesco Bagnaia, and scored just two other podiums on his way to sixth in the standings.

“[I’m trying to keep] something positive inside myself, but obviously it has been a total disaster season, my worst season of my career,” Vinales said at the conclusion of the campaign.

“So, it is hard to believe that. Anyway, now it is time to go home, stay calm and it is the other ones that have to worry about it.”

15 February 2021 – Yamaha shows its support for Vinales

Race winner Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Race winner Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“I believe in him more than himself”

Yamaha made big promises during the winter of 2020/2021 as it set to work on rectifying the issues which plagued its 2020 season.

As Vinales began his new contract cycle, there was absolutely no indication of what was to come, with Yamaha management publicly throwing its support behind the Spaniard.

“It’s true that sometimes I can see that Maverick has the first in his eyes, but it’s easy for him to lose this fire,” team manager Massimo Meregalli said at Yamaha’s team launch.

“And when I say that I feel and think that I believe in him more than himself, it’s because I can see how he’s approaching races and also how he can approach other races. For sure, we can give our support to try to help him to be more balanced in his behaviour.”

Vinales even felt his surroundings were positive for him, noting: “For sure they can blame me, like sometimes I blame Yamaha. We can do because we are not perfect ever race and every day.

“For me, it means everything that the team I have has my back, is pushing me, supporting me, this is what I need actually to give all my potential to take out all my talent.”

Those positive feelings wouldn’t last long…

3 June 2021 – Crew chief change begins Vinales’ path to his Yamaha exit

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“Saying ‘goodbye’ to one of our crew members is always a sad occasion”

On the eve of June’s Catalan Grand Prix, Yamaha announced it had swapped out Vinales’ crew chief Esteban Garcia for ex-Rossi ally Silvano Galbusera.

After an emphatic win on the opening night of the season in Qatar, arguably his finest ride, Vinales’ form dipped in the following rounds and he didn’t come close to the podium while team-mate Quartararo won three times.

Vinales’ old woes of a lack of rear grip in races materialised again and Yamaha sought to help him by bringing in Galbusera.

Though it was claimed this move was by mutual consent, it’s understood replacing Garcia – a close friend of Vinales – only added to the tension in the Yamaha garage between team management and Vinales.

Vinales would finish the Catalan GP in fifth, but the worst was still to come.

20 June 2021 – Vinales slams Yamaha after his worst-ever grand prix weekend in Germany

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“This is starting to seem disrespectful”

As Quartararo fought for the front row and finished on the podium in Germany, Vinales hit a career nadir when he qualified in 21st and finishing the race in 19th.

Vinales was at a loss to explain the rear grip issues which dogged him once again, and stuck the knife into Yamaha over its response to his problems, noting that nobody has been able to offer him any solutions.

“Every rider has to have his own set-up, it can’t be that I’ve been using my rival’s set-up for two years,” he said.

“Every rider has his style and every day they are teaching me how to ride: take the brake, leave the brake, open the throttle, close the throttle.

“I have to be patient, I don’t want to use Fabio’s set-up because I don’t ride like him and that doesn’t work for me. I’m not here to take data or to be a test rider. This is starting to seem disrespectful.

“It’s a constant ‘I don’t know’ [from the team]. What frustrates me the most is not having answers as to why I don’t have grip.”

27 June 2021 – Exit rumours mount as Vinales returns to Assen podium

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing  race

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing race

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“For sure I’ve given up many times”

Ahead of the Dutch TT, Vinales admitted the situation within Yamaha in 2021 led him to “give up many times” as answers to his woes were never forthcoming.

Having claimed after Germany that he would be using Quartararo’s settings at Assen, Vinales topped qualifying and went on to finish second behind Quartararo on a bike he claims he didn’t change compared to the M1 he rode the week before in Germany.

Ahead of Sunday’s race, Vinales was linked to a shock move to Aprilia for 2022 as he looked to exit from his current Yamaha contract a year early. After his Germany misery, it’s understood there was no guarantee Vinales was going to line up on the Assen grid.

Vinales batted away these rumours, but it was clear after the Assen race in parc ferme, on the podium and in Yamaha team picture that the relationship between both parties had deteriorated irreparably.

Vinales’ celebrations were muted, he refused to embrace with Yamaha boss Meregalli and in the post-race team picture he sat atop his M1 with a sullen expression on his face as sunglasses covered frustrated eyes.

28 June 2021 – Vinales quits Yamaha

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“It is with sadness we will say farewell to Maverick”

Despite the denials during the Assen weekend, on Monday after the race Yamaha announced it would be ending Vinales’ contract a season early.

What was significant about this announcement was the fact it mentioned this decision was reached upon request from Vinales.

The dialogue in the official press release was cordial and respectful, which was in stark contrast to some of the language used by Vinales leading up to the announcement.

This, however, would not be the end of the story as it would take on an unexpected twist.

12 August 2021 – Vinales is suspended by Yamaha

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing restart from the pitlane

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing restart from the pitlane

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Any hopes of a peaceful end to the Vinales/Yamaha relationship were dashed between the Styrian and Austrian GPs.

On the Thursday ahead of the Austrian GP, Yamaha announced it had suspended Vinales and withdrawn him from the second Red Bull Ring race for what it called “unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle” during the Styrian GP.

What had transpired was Vinales had deliberately tried to damage his M1’s engine in the final laps of the Styrian race by over-revving the motor – something caught on telemetry and by Dorna Sports’ world feed cameras.

This all came as Vinales battled problems from the start of the race. After it was red-flagged for a fiery incident between Dani Pedrosa and Lorenzo Savadori, Vinales was forced to take the restart from pitlane when his bike stalled on the grid.

From there, Vinales made little progress through the field and ultimately ended it in pitlane. On the Saturday of the Austrian GP, Vinales publicly apologised to Yamaha for his actions, blaming it on mounting frustration at the situation in the race and in general.

But the writing was already on the wall…

18 August 2021 – Vinales benched for Silverstone

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

As revealed by Autosport, Yamaha would not be allowing Vinales to race in next weekend’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Following his suspension ahead of the Austrian GP, Yamaha said it would decide on Vinales’ future participation following further discussions.

At the time of Autosport’s report, it was only certain that Vinales – who has now signed with Aprilia for 2022 – would not race at Silverstone, with Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow taking his place.

20 August 2021 – Yamaha ousts Vinales with immediate effect

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

A ‘mutual’ decision was reached

On Friday Yamaha announced that it had parted ways with Vinales with immediate effect, bringing an end to the Spaniard’s time with the Japanese marque under terrible circumstances.

Yamaha claimed in its press release that the decision to end its association with Vinales came was “mutual”, but the reality is more that Yamaha no longer trusts the rider to fulfil his duties to the end of the season after what happened in the Styrian GP.

Vinales is now free to do whatever he wants, which could involve riding an Aprilia in 2021 before his 2022 contract begins if that is what the Italian marque wishes.

Yamaha is yet to determine who will replace Vinales for the final rounds. Though test rider Crutchlow is the official reserve, his contract stipulates he can turn down replacement ride offers if he doesn’t want to do them.

Signed by Yamaha back in 2016 as its future star and be the heir to Rossi’s throne at the team, the irony of this whole saga is Rossi has outlasted Vinales at Yamaha even as he nears retirement.

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