The ripple effect caused by the Maverick Viñales-Yamaha fallout not only factors into the rider’s championship but also the constructor’s title in 2021. When “Top Gun” vacated Team Blue’s paddock on August 20, 2021, Yamaha was forced to replace the Spaniard with test rider Cal Crutchlow. However, with Fabio Quartararo currently lighting up the field, the bLU cRU is still clinging to its triple crown chances in 2021.
After Viñales officially signed with the Aprilia team for 2022 and the remainder of the 2021 season, Yamaha scrambled to promote injured Petronas SRT rider Franco Morbidelli into the factory outfit. Of course, that created another vacuum at the satellite Yamaha squad, but all signs point to veteran MotoGP rider Andrea Dovizioso returning to an Iwata-backed team at this year’s San Marino GP.
Earlier this season, Dovi tested the Noale factory’s RS-GP21 on several occasions. While many believed that the Italian rider would join Aprilia’s team in 2022, the Factory sprung for Viñales as soon as he hit the market. Prior to his eight-year run at Ducati, Dovizioso spent one season (2012) with the Tech 3 satellite Yamaha team. He was instantly competitive as well, finishing fourth place in the standings and beating teammate Cal Crutchlow in points.
Now, the number 4 is set to make his Petronas SRT debut on September 19, 2021 at Italy’s Misano World Circuit. Many believe that Franco Morbidelli will also return from injury that week, which will solidify Yamaha’s lineup for its final push to the 2021 triple crown. We should note that both Dovizioso and Morbidelli’s contracts haven’t been officially finalized, but Yamaha is moving forward with its plan, confident that both riders will sign the dotted line in due time.
On the other side of the coin, Aprilia is also playing musical chairs after the bizarre shakeup. Viñales will officially test the Aprilia at the same Misano track on August 31 and September 1, 2021.
“From a technical point of view, it is always fascinating to listen to the impressions of a rider who is testing your bike for the first time,” noted Aprilia Racing Technical Director Romano Albesiano. “Especially with a champion like Maverick, who we are pleased to welcome into the Aprilia Racing family.”
While we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves, Aprilia still has six wildcards in its back pocket. If Maverick’s tests go well, the team has ample opportunities to get “Top Gun” into a race before the end of the 2021 season. Current Aprilia MotoGP rider Lorenzo Savadori is still nursing injuries incurred during the Austrian GP. Of course, Maverick’s signing already pushes the Italian rider out of his seat in 2022, but his health could open the door for the number 12 in 2021 as well.
As always, we’ll have to wait and see how the situation develops over the course of the next few months. With only six races left on the 2021 calendar, there isn’t much time left for last-minute changes. However, if we’ve learned anything from the Viñales-Yamaha fallout, it’s that we should always expect the unexpected.