Rossi ‘expected worse’ from Viñales rev video

Maverick Viñales. Picture: MotoGP.com

Valentino Rossi says he “expected worse” from onboard footage which seemingly supports Yamaha’s case for suspending Maverick Viñales from this weekend’s Austrian MotoGP round.

Yamaha announced the indefinite suspension of Viñales, who was already set to leave the manufacturer at the end of 2021, on the morning prior to the start of track activity at the Red Bull Ring.

It referred to “unexplained irregular operation of the motorcycle” which had the potential to damage the engine in last weekend’s Michelin Grand Prix of Styria, also at the Red Bull Ring, in its explanation for the decision.

Viñales’ Monster Energy Yamaha team-mate Fabio Quartararo said he was “not really surprised” by the suspension, even if the rapid deterioration of the relationship between rider and team/manufacturer was a surprise.

MotoGP itself also released onboard footage from the final lap of the Michelin Grand Prix of Styria which seemed to show the Spaniard revving his M1 to the limiter on multiple occasions.

Whether there is more to the story is not clear, although Rossi, Viñales’ team-mate as recently as last year, suspects there might be.

“I’ve seen a video and, to be honest, I expected worse,” said the veteran, who now rides for Yamaha satellite team SRT.

“I don’t know if he did more than I saw; it’s definitely a bad thing, but perhaps not that extreme.

“I think this was a case of the straw breaking the camel’s back but it’s hard to say without knowing everything.”

Viñales had complained of an apparent engine problem in qualifying, and also in the race last weekend.

Also intriguing is the announcement, in the days between that event and Yamaha’s bombshell statement, that the Viñales Racing Team has split from the Iwata manufacturer.

That squad, owned by Maverick’s father Angel, had joined the FIM Supersport 300 World Championship which supports WorldSBK for the 2021 season but is looking for new bikes after just four rounds.

“It’s official: Viñales Racing Team won’t continue with Yamaha,” read a post from the team on Facebook.

“The rookie team in the WorldSSP300 category has decided, unilaterally, to break the deal with Yamaha Racing.

“At the moment, there is no confirmation according to another factory so updates will be reported in the coming weeks.”

Maverick Viñales was a trackside spectator for Free Practice 1 at the Austrian Grand Prix, at which time he promised to “explain the details … as soon as I can,” but there is no word yet on when he will return to racing for Yamaha, if ever.

With the nine-time premier class race winner heavily linked to Aprilia, focus has now turned to whether or not Cal Crutchlow will be bumped up from testing duties to take his place at the factory squad.

Crutchlow, currently filling in for the injured Franco Morbidelli at SRT, says he is yet to hear from Yamaha management about the possibility.

Morbidelli is considered the likely longer-term replacement for Viñales and, amid confirmation of Rossi’s retirement, the Malaysian-owned squad has even further headaches.

Multiple reports from Europe now have major sponsor Petronas also departing at season’s end, which would lead to the axing of SRT’s Moto2 and Moto3 programmes.

At this stage, Jake Dixon could reportedly be thrust from Moto2 into a MotoGP ride in place of Crutchlow in the next round of the season, at Silverstone, if Crutchlow does get called to the factory team.

There is also speculation that current SRT Moto3 rider Darryn Binder might be promoted into the MotoGP team next year, when it would possibly field what have been dubbed ‘B-Spec’ Yamahas.

The factory presently supplies current-spec M1s for its own entries and for Rossi, while Morbidelli (or Crutchlow, for the time being) races on an older, ‘A-spec’ bike.

Amid all the drama, SRT-turned-factory Yamaha rider Quartararo holds a commanding, 40-point championship lead.

Practice at the Red Bull Ring continues this evening (AEST).

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