The story of Maverick Viñales’ suspension from the Monster Energy Yamaha team continues to get weirder with Monday’s news that the top-level MotoGP racer has been signed as lead rider for the Aprilia factory team in 2022. Having been riding for Yamaha since 2017, and Suzuki before that, Maverick has been lauded as among the best riders on the grid, winning just shy of 10 percent of Grands Prix he has entered and scoring podiums in over 20 percent. He started off the 2021 season in typical Viñales fashion by winning the opening round, but has routinely struggled since then.
There is some speculation that the Yamaha team is somewhat difficult to work with, and that Maverick was frustrated with how he’d been treated as a rider there. In any case, that’s no excuse for him to over-rev his engine on the final lap of a GP in an attempt to get it to grenade. It’s, um, a shitty thing to do, and also could potentially have been quite dangerous for himself and other riders.
The week after the Austrian GP video was released of the Spanish rider’s final lap of the race, in which he can be seen riding a gear too low, and ripping the throttle open to intentionally over-rev the bike. Here, check out the video below.
On Saturday Viñales sent a formal apology to the Yamaha team in a media appearance. He admitted that he’d been frustrated by the Austrian GP’s red flag period which kneecapped his good start and changes made by the team during the red flag period made his bike less competitive after the fact. Things went downhill in rapid fashion.
“Then it all went wrong and there was an explosion inside me that I couldn’t channel properly. I apologize to Yamaha, because I rode in the wrong way in the last laps, so I want to apologize to everybody,” said MV.
While Viñales had previously announced that he’d be leaving the Yamaha team at the end of the 2021 season, and Yamaha had already announced Franco Morbidelli would be moving up the ladder to replace the Spaniard, the world was waiting to see where he would end up. Now that it’s been made clear Viñales would be headed to Aprilia, it has left some to wonder if the move was in some way intended to either tank the Yamaha team from within, or get out of his contract with the team early.
Being that neither of Aprilia’s current riders, Aleix Espargaro or Lorenzo Savadori, finished the Red Bull Ring round, there wouldn’t have been any points payout on the line either way. It seems like an honest case of a 26 year-old pro rider doing something dumb and regretting it afterward. It’s unclear whether Viñales will ever contest another GP in Yamaha colors this year, but the team seems to have accepted his apology.
For Aprilia’s part, it seems that the team is extremely excited to have Maverick onboard. The championship-caliber rider is the kind of thing this team needs right now, as it hasn’t won a race since joining the sport in 2016. The Gresini team which runs the Aprilia factory effort hasn’t seen the top step of the podium since 2006. If they’re ever going to turn things around, they’ll need a rider like Mav.
“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 in a statement.
“Our project has now been enriched with the value that Maverick brings - a World Champion [Moto3 in 2013] 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,” he continued.
“We are honored 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.”
This continues to be a weird story, but one that I really love following.