After pinning MotoGP results up and down the year round, Maverick Vinales is now certain that “we made a mistake” when we selected the 2020 Yamaha Factory spec: “Last year’s bike was on more competitive on all routes, not just on some. “
Yamaha has won six of its 12 races so far this season, but hero-to-zero form for leading riders Vinales and Fabio Quartararo means the plant is now on the verge of losing all three World Championships to Suzuki (two race wins) .
The misery for Vinales and Quartararo is made worse by the fact that Franco Morbidelli, who rides the lower A-Spec bike that is heavily based on the 2019 machine, has often been more competitive than the factory riders.
This trend continued during qualifying in Valencia with Morbidelli in pole position, Vinales 6th, Quartararo 11th and Valentino Rossi 16th.
Morbidelli, already a two-time race winner this season, is now just eight points away from finishing as the best Yamaha rider in the World Championship, which begs questions about the changes made to this season’s factory spec machine.
“The most important thing for me at the moment is to understand what we need to do for next year, especially with regard to the rear handle situation because we suffer a lot from it at times,” said Vinales.
“We always have the same problem, especially with the gas, that the tire slips. But we’ve improved in a few other areas, which gives me a lot of confidence, so overall I’m happy.
“We have improved braking and cornering a lot, but we haven’t touched the acceleration after FP1 because the more we do the grip area, the worse we get in the other areas.
“Let’s see if I can improve the grip on the rear wheel tomorrow and we can do a better lap time. At the moment I can do a few laps with 31-Mid, Low. It’s good to be in the top six.” So we’ll try to improve tomorrow morning, if not we’ll focus on that in the next race at Portimao.
“It’s important to give Yamaha a direction because right now we’re a bit lost with the new bike, so we have to find a good direction they can work in over the winter to bring something that really works on them Motorcycle works. “
2019 and 2020 M1: “Everything is different”
Monster Yamaha teammate Valentino Rossi downplayed the difference between the factory and A-spec bikes (or 2020 and 2019 machines), saying on Saturday:
“For me, the feeling of riding is very, very similar. So the problem is not that the new bike is worse than the old one, but the problem is that it is very similar. So we are not able to do that Step to improvement. “
But both Quartararo and Vinales have been talking louder and louder about what they think is a radical behavioral difference with the 2020. Quartararo spent another day flipping his bike upside down but still couldn’t get a big reaction on it.
“Pretty bad,” said Quartararo of his Saturday. “Because I think the number of changes we’ve made this weekend is a lot more than all of last year.
“We make big changes because we really believe it will work and it’s the same every time.
“I don’t think we’re doing stupid things, we’re always trying to improve and take smart steps, but nothing really works
“But at the moment, apart from Franco, who has a different bike than us, we have [Factory-spec Yamahas] all go bad.
“Usually qualifying is my strength. You put on a new tire for me and I just go to the limit. And at the moment the limit is seven tenths behind Franco.”
Vinales revealed that the changes made to the 2020 Factory-Spec M1 are so big that it no longer tries to compare Morbidelli’s data.
“It’s a completely different bike,” said Vinales. “That’s why we lose each other when we look at Franco [data] because – different engine, different engine brake, different power, different torque, different chassis, different swing arm. Everything is different. So we’re going to focus on our 2020 bike and see if we can improve. “
“It looks like we made a mistake with the bike”
The 2020 Factory Spec bike has won three races in the hands of Quartararo and one with Vinales. Far from catastrophe.
The problem with winning a world championship, however, is that while the new bike will be “amazing” on high-grip tracks, it will perform poorly on low-grip tracks.
“The areas where we need to improve are the corners and the first few meters of acceleration,” said Vinales. “I think we lost our grip completely.
“Because when the track has grip, the bike works fantastic. You don’t have to do anything. Just ride it. But as soon as we lose grip, it doesn’t turn or it slips a lot, or we don’t have” the initial acceleration.
“In the end, you can only make the bike better if there is grip on the track. If there is no grip on the track, it will be difficult. This weekend we focused on working without grip [including using the hard rear tyre in FP1]which is a great way to understand what we need to do for next year. “
Fascinatingly, Vinales said he felt the grip problems with the 2020 bike right from the opening test of the year in Sepang, and told Yamaha. But then it seems to have been too late to switch back to 2019.
“In winter I tested the 2019 and 2020, and the 2020 bike was only better when there was a lot of grip on the track,” explained Vinales.
“When I tried the bike in Sepang, I sensed it and immediately told all employees.
“My information was good and I immediately said in Sepang which bike I would like to have for this year.
“But it [Factory-Spec] was the bike we had to ride for 2020 so I focused on making the bike better. Looking back, maybe we’d choose something else …
“In the end it looks like we made a mistake with the bike because last year’s bike was more competitive for me on all tracks, not just some tracks.
“I think the decision is up to the group. If you make a mistake, we are sure to all make a mistake because we have to ride this bike.
“So we have to watch out for a lot [next year]but I think and I hope that this will be the last time that we have learned a lot and will try to make the right decision for the future.
“It has been four years since we made mistakes, chose the wrong things, tried to develop the wrong path for myself. I hope that next year we can build a complete motorcycle with the Yamaha for the whole season, not just 4 -5 races. “
“This engine is a little nightmare”
Compounding Yamaha’s 2021 to-do list is a ban on engine development until the end of next season.
An illegal and ultimately fragile mix of valve suppliers in the current engines has already cost Yamaha designers and teams points while drivers were forced to spend a large part of the season with just 2-3 of their 5 engines. Vinales then needed a 6th engine last weekend, which led to a pit start.
But it’s not just poor top speed and reliability, Rossi has also spoken of a lack of smoothness in the latest factory-spec engine that has traditionally been one of Yamaha’s strong points.
Vinales said the engine is contributing to the inconsistency.
“It’s a shame that we won’t be able to change the engine next year, because this engine is a bit, shall we say, a nightmare for us, because once it works, another time it doesn’t. So it is difficult to achieve consistency.” said Vinales.
“But now we have two to three months anyway to work on the chassis and see if we can make a big improvement on the chassis, because it seems that last year’s bike turns a little more and has more grip and that’s something we miss.
“If we want to do the Yamaha driving style, we need a lot more grip from the tires. Sometimes it looks like both tires slip a lot when you’re leaning and you can’t turn.”
Quartararo starts the penultimate run with Alex Rins for second place in the world championship, 37 points behind Rins’ Suzuki teammate Joan Mir. Vinales is in fourth place, 41 points behind.
Vinales and Quartararo will then be teammates at Monster Yamaha next season, with Rossi joining Petronas alongside Morbidelli. Morbidelli will have the only A-Spec bike again in 2021.
After the final in Portimao next weekend, there will be no official MotoGP tests until Sepang in February 2021, followed by a second and final test in Qatar.