Sometimes, drivers (or riders) and their teams don’t get along. We’ve witnessed it a million times in motorsports, how little disagreements can create deeper fractures within a garage. That’s not what makes this week’s story about Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales on the outs with his squad so unusual.
No, what makes this saga interesting is that the more it develops, the weirder it gets. Earlier this morning Yamaha released a statement that it has suspended and withdrawn Viñales from this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring. The reason was stated to be “unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle” during last weekend’s race — a really soft way of putting that Viñales did something on the bike he shouldn’t have. That in and of itself wouldn’t be grounds for suspension, as riders make mistakes all the time; Yamaha insinuated the mystery action was deliberate.
What in the world could Viñales have done to get himself suspended? Possibly grenade his engine by over-revving it, according to the latest from Autosport:
Autosport can report the team claims that Vinales tried to over-rev his M1 engine on the way into the pit lane when he entered the garage lane at the end of the second race, without crossing the finish line.
The team backs up its version with the telemetry data of the bike, which despite having a rev limiter, precisely to avoid this possibility of unintentional over-revving, can be deliberately over-revved, as a technician explained to this writer.
This aligns with another report from The Race, which cited speed trap data to presume that Viñales took the Red Bull Ring’s main straight in fifth gear rather than sixth for the final three laps of the event, costing him about five seconds a lap.
Jalopnik has reached out to both the Monster Energy Yamaha team and Viñales himself and will update this story should we hear back.
Viñales had an absolutely dreadful race last Sunday. He executed an excellent start, but then the event was quickly red flagged after a fiery incident in which Dani Pedrosa lost control of his KTM exiting Turn 3, and Lorenzo Savadori crashed into the stranded bike. Pedrosa was unharmed after the incident, but Savadori was later diagnosed with a broken ankle and underwent surgery.
Viñales stalled on the warm up lap before the restart, so he had to take off from pit lane. This later resulted in a long lap penalty, and the Spanish rider wasn’t even included in the final classification because he finished in the pits.
Supposedly, Yamaha swapped the clutch in Viñales’ bike during the red flag period, a change he didn’t want and tried to stop. The rest of the race was fraught with mechanical problems for him, as his Yamaha sputtered at the back of the pack. Viñales announced in June that he’ll be leaving Yamaha at the end of this season, a year earlier than he was under contract for. Rumors place him at Aprilia in 2022. At this point, it’d be surprising if he even contests one more race in Yamaha overalls.