In 2016, despite making major gains at Suzuki, Maverick Vinales left Suzuki to replace Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha, could this be the worst decision of his career?
For the 2015 season, it was announced that 2013 Moto3 champion and 2014 Moto2 rookie sensation Maverick Vinales would move up to the MotoGP class with Suzuki’s new MotoGP project which had spent years in development thanks to Randy De Puniet and the entire Suzuki Motor team based in Iwata.
Vinales was a hotshot, an outstanding talent in Moto2 and was one of the best Moto2 rookies the class has ever seen taking a huge 9 x podiums and 4 x wins as a rookie in the class, finishing the season in P3 overall in the standings behind Marc VDS duo Mika Kallio and Tito Rabat, not forgetting he was also the 2013 Moto3 champion, beating huge names such as Alex Rins and Luis Salom to the top spot.
Maverick Vinales on the Pons Moto2 as a rookie
Vinales had an impressive two seasons at Suzuki, taking P12 overall in the standings as a class rookie on a completely unproven motorcycle with a best result of P6 which he scored twice in the season, however, 2016 was an outstanding season for the Spaniard in just his second season in the class, amassing 4 x podiums and 1 x win at Silverstone which was a completely unexpected win, leading the race with dominance before a restart halted proceedings, just to go out and wipe the floor with the field once again.
His consistency in 2016 was unparalleled, finishing nearly every race in the points aside from 1 x P12 at the Sachsenring Circuit with only 1 x DNF to his name, not bad for a rider riding a bike which only re-entered the class a year previous after leaving in the 2011 season. He ended the season in P4 overall with a points tally of 202.
For the 2017 season, 5 x World Champion Jorge Lorenzo left Yamaha to hop on the Bologna bullet, dressed to the nines in red, leaving arguably the best seat in the house available next to Valentino Rossi, Yamaha were quick to approach Vinales and the pair formed a partnership for the 2017 season which will continue to the 2022 season for now.
Maverick Vinales, Qatar 2017
At first the move was successful, leading every test session and winning his first two races on the Yamaha, people really believed he would be a threat to Marc Marquez, yet over time the Yamaha got worse whilst the Suzuki improved with Alex Rins taking over and staying loyal to Suzuki.
Since this move, Vinales has won 7 races for Yamaha in 4 seasons, taking P3 overall in the standings in 2017 and 2019 with points tallies of 230 and 211 respectively, being beaten to P3 by his teammate in 2018 with 193 points overall, less than what he scored with Suzuki.
Looking back at his records, Vinales was more consistent on the Suzuki in the 2016 season than he has been in every season since joining Yamaha, despite this, his worst result still remains at P14 which he scored in Misano in his rookie season and once more in the MotoGP class, Brno 2020.
He was on a huge upward trend with Suzuki before leaving, as of 2020 they are leading the MotoGP championship with both riders regularly featuring on the podium together, whereas Vinales has peaked in 2017 and since then levelled out to match his 2016 season with Suzuki which begs the question, should he have stayed at Suzuki?
Featured image – www.motogp.com