In the run-up to the second race last year at Spielberg , the Japanese brand surprised all the staff with a statement informing them of the non-participation of Maverick Viñales that weekend, as a result of his misconduct with the motorcycle in the last laps of the previous test, also at the Red Bull Ring.
That was nothing more than the last episode of an explosive relationship, with many ups and downs, which did not end in any case as both parties had planned in 2016, when they signed their alliance.
In Assen , two tests before, the Spanish and Yamaha had already agreed to cancel the contract that also bound them in 2022. But the episode during the last laps of the Styrian Grand Prix provoked the Japanese manufacturer’s furious reaction, which refused to to let the Catalan get on one of his motorcycles again and terminated the agreement that united them.
That outcome made the boy from Roses (Girona) hit rock bottom, in what was the most delicate moment of his career in the heavy motorcycle category; an episode similar to the one he already experienced when he was racing in Moto3 (2012), but magnified by being in MotoGP this time.
A few days after that explosive grand prix at Spielberg, Aprilia announced the incorporation of the man from Girona until the end of the season, in a relationship that will last until at least 2024. In a year, Viñales has gone from the darkest place in the pit to enjoying of one of his best moments, a state of mind that also has its projection on the track. In this rebirth process, the Noale brand and the structure that has been formed around #12 have allowed him to give his best version again; the one that led him to fight for victory in the last round of the calendar, at Silverstone , where he finally finished second, his best result wearing the Italian manufacturer’s suit.
Since making his debut with the Aprilia at the Aragón Grand Prix last season, Viñales has not stopped growing and burning stages, despite his adaptation to a motorcycle concept with a V-four cylinder engine – the Yamaha incorporates a four in a row – it was not a cakewalk.
With the passing of the races, the boy was jumping grid lines on Saturdays and climbing positions on Sundays, a progression that accelerated even more in 2022, already on the new course.
The rehearsal after the Catalunya Grand Prix was key because it was there that the team introduced the new aerodynamics to the RS-GP, which gave the rider the definitive boost. In Germany he was riding in the group that was leading the race when the rear height device broke down and forced him to abandon. In Holland, the last round before the break, he climbed from eleventh position on the grid to reach his first podium with Aprilia, and in Great Britain, last weekend, he placed on the front row for the first time –second– and returned to climb into the drawer.
As if his performance wasn’t commendable enough already, his predisposition to row in favor of Aleix Espargaró so that his partner can be crowned champion has made both his neighbor and the entire company applaud him.
“Maverick is doing very well. It is true that at Silverstone he had already done spectacular things before, both with Suzuki and with Yamaha – he won with both. But he is taking a step forward in quality and, moreover, he is doing it in a stable way “, Espargaró complimented him, a key player in the hiring of Viñales , whom he has accompanied throughout this process of reunion with himself.
In any case, the influence of the short-distance #41 would have had if it had not found an interlocutor on the other side like Massimo Rivola , CEO of the Aprilia racing division, and a lover of the natural talent of his pupil. “Being able to have Maverick was a dream for us. We must not forget that it came at a time when several young people rejected our proposals. It is clear that what we were able to show him at that time, and Aleix’s advice, played a determining role. in his choice,” admits Rivola in statements to Motorsport.com .
“His progress has been evident throughout this time, but he had always assured us that, as soon as he could feel comfortable on the bike, he would go fast. And that has been proven in recent dates,” adds the executive, that with a view to 2023 will fulfill the wishes of #12, having signed Manuel Cazeaux as his new technical manager on his side of the garage. Giovanni Matarollo , who until now held that role, will move to RNF, the satellite formation, next year.
“Maverick arrived after a period of darkness, and at that time he needed a group of people around him who would listen to him, and who would work to give him what he needed. It was essential that he feel comfortable, because he came from a climate of hostility”, tells the writer of these lines a member of his workshop, and one of the people who has spent more hours with him. According to this testimony, the pilot’s room for improvement is still large. “From my point of view, now he has reached the level that we expected from someone of his quality. Now, with the calm that surrounds him, that will help him give a little more”, affirms this authoritative voice. “The change for him has been enormous; bigger than people imagine. When he left Suzuki and joined Yamaha, there he found a similar bike, but something better. This time, the difference – between the Yamaha and the Aprilia – is abysmal”, concedes this engineer.
The stability that Viñales has found in the grand prix is complemented by what he has found at home, together with Raquel , his partner, and especially after the arrival of Nina , their daughter. Despite his youth (27 years old), the boy long ago admitted his desire to be a father.