Does Vinales no longer fit Aprilia’s Martin-led MotoGP future?

Maverick Vinales' time as a Yamaha MotoGP rider officially ended on August 20, 2021, days after he was suspended by the team for over-revving the engine of his M1 at the Red Bull Ring.

It was the conclusion of that particular story, but the point of no return came much earlier. And if you pick a specific date, there are certainly worse dates than January 29, 2020 – the day Yamaha signed Fabio Quartararo to seat Valentino Rossi in 2021.

Quartararo's ridiculous rise has shattered Viñales. As the 2021 season reached the halfway point, he greeted his second place in Assen – second in the Yamaha 1-2 behind his irrepressible teammate – with a face full of thunder. After one race, and now a miserable 77 points behind Quartararo, he was stood down.

Naturally, Quartararo went on to win the title that year, with Yamaha increasingly precise, and only he could pull it off. At the same time, Vinales' Aprilia run began – and he could rightly say he had, if not the last laugh, then at least Latest He laughs.

An up-and-down adaptation to the foreign but increasingly powerful RS-GP car has seen him reach more than three times the points score of the heavily outpaced Yamaha M1 by Quartararo so far this season. And Vinales' peak in 2024 – particularly his Force of Nature Tour at the Circuit of the Americas – is something Yamaha can't even dream of at the moment.

But it's also the kind of result that showed why, having rejected Yamaha's advances earlier, Jorge Martin now jumped into Aprilia's waiting arms almost the second it became clear Ducati would snub him for the factory red.

In theory, Viñales' success on the RS-GP has given him a headache on the other side of the garage – but also a potential reboot of Quartararo's scenario, and thus a chance to show he can hang with a cocky hotshot with a parachute. for him a team.

But there's a chance, rumor has it, that he might not seize it.

The entire Spanish Aprilia plan

Jorge Martin Maverick Viñales

Martin now leads the MotoGP title race. Aprilia didn't sign him just to bolster their line-up – as one of the most talented riders in modern motorcycling, with unrivaled single-lap speed, Martin is a championship-caliber rider.

Her excitement about the signing and her rush to cross the goal line were barely concealed, and in the rush she forgot to tell Viñales what she was doing.

“I'm curious to see what Aprilia will do with the riders,” Viñales said during a media session during Monday's wet practice at Mugello, at the same time Aprilia was finalizing Martin's contract.

When asked about Martin as a potential teammate, he said: “We're talking about hypotheses. I don't know what to say!”

A few hours later, Martin was revealed – and Aprilia made it clear that Martin/Viñales was the ideal combination.

“If Maverick stays, the new 'Capitano' will be Maverick,” Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola insisted when asked whether Martin or Viñales would initially take over that symbolic mantle of project spearhead from the retiring Aleix Espargaro.

“he [Vinales] He fought through a bad period of Aprilia, he brought Aprilia to the top level, and showed us a different way of riding a bike compared to Alex.

“If he stays, it will be Commander Maverick and not Jorge – I'm sorry Jorge, but you have to earn this merit on the right track. Who is he? he have Done – but on another bike.

“In any team, you give the grade to the most experienced, the biggest player, and Maverick did the whole process with us.”

Let us be clear, it is a purely semantic distinction. Whatever rights of seniority Vinales might have would have disappeared immediately if Martin overtook him in the first test, whether that was at the end of 2024 or the beginning of 2025. Perhaps Rivola was thinking in any case of being kind to the Aprilian's rider. He had just passed it. I forgot to report Martin's seismic signature.

But it is also a clear message for Viñales to stick to.

“I think we found good setup parameters to keep it at the right level,” said Aprilia's technology director Romano Alpiciano, from Viñales. “We still need to improve to keep all these numbers in the right range – but if you look at the last races of '23 and the races so far in '24, the average is much better than it was in the past.

“So the trend for me is very positive, it's not over yet, but it's a good process.”

2024 lead?

Viñales had two downright poor weekends in 2024 – Qatar, which he put up because he had yet to focus on the balance he needed in the revised '24 RS-GP, and Barcelona, ​​where he had absolutely nothing on the grip surface.

Aside from that, the 29-year-old has been fantastic. His double win in Austin would be the obvious wildcard, but Viñales has increasingly snatched the status of fastest RS-GP rider away from Espargaro, and even a lackluster weekend at Mugello showed he's more on the good side than the bad.

The Aprilia was nothing to write home about on the Italian track, looking very limited in terms of what it could offer its riders coming out of Buquin and onto the main straight in particular, but Viñales dragged the RS-GP team into the (Pico Bagnaia penalty) start Front row anyway, and Desmosedici was the only rider not in the top six in qualifying.

He fell backwards at the start in both races and struggled to fight back, which fits with some stereotypes of Viñales. But this came at the weekend after Espargaro had taken pole position in Barcelona twice and dropped to fifth after the lights went out both times. It's something from Aprilia.

That Martin will dominate Viñales is not a given. For much of its time in MotoGP, the RS-GP's reputation was that of a bike designed in Espargaro's image, which suited his “firm” riding style with minimal body movement.

For his part, Viñales had been viewed as an aggressive, point-and-shoot rider for much of his career, and his discomfort with trying to deliver the riding style he felt the Aprilia required has been well documented.

Certainly some operations like that await Martin as well, given that he is arguably the poster boy in MotoGP for hanging on the bike and doing the work with body movement.

Aprilia, for what it's worth, isn't worried. Albesiano made it clear that he saw no reason why Martin's style would not suit the RS-GP, meeting the very idea with a wry chuckle. And Martin's sheer talent means it would be unwise to bet against rapid adaptation.

This does not mean that he will always have the upper hand over Vinales. But Viñales' problem remains consistency, as has been the case in 2024 so far, with five good weekends and two very bad ones.

This kind of 2/7 ratio doesn't happen to Martin or guys like Pico Bagnaia, Marc Márquez, and even Pedro Acosta, and it's the kind of thing you'd expect to swing into any matchup between Martin and Viñales eventually.

Set to split?

Unfortunately, this may have to remain within the realm of pure theory.

Ricard Goff, Vinales' former Moto3 team principal, who was at the forefront of the original Vinales-to-Aprilia story three years ago, revealed in a recent appearance on the Dura La Vita podcast – a pet project of Jorge Lorenzo – that he believes Vinales has already told Aprilia of his departure.

There's even a suggestion that he did so before Aprilia made Martin's move – although that would make some of Rivola's subsequent rhetoric somewhat out of proportion.

Even with Martin on the books, Viñales will be a big loss for Aprilia. He is the fastest current racer and whose departure could deprive her of crucial continuity.

It would also rob us of a very interesting showdown between Vinales and Martin, even if Martin is the long-term favorite.

On the other hand, Viñales' time alongside Quartararo showed how this kind of dynamic could end – both Viñales and Yamaha were worse off for him for signing this final extension.

Perhaps another move, one that rumors say could take Viñales to him the fourth Manufacturer in MotoGP, is a more narratively satisfying take on the series' ultimate nomad.


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