For the first time since 2012, the Factory Yamaha team goes into a MotoGP season without Valentino Rossi, having signed Fabio Quartararo to join Maverick Vinales for 2021.
Yamaha has unveiled its factory MotoGP colours for the 2021 season with its revised line-up of Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo.
“It’s great that Valentino continues in the sport, with the full factory support of Yamaha, but he’ll be next door at Petronas with Frankie. I think it can be good for him,” said Yamaha Racing managing director LinJarvis.
“From our side, having Fabio join us, a young really exciting rider coupled together with Maverick, we have these young superstar riders with all the potential to win. We’re excited. It’s a generation change, but I think it will work well.
Eight-time MotoGP race winner Vinales – who joined Yamaha from Suzuki in 2017 – remains with the squad, with three-time race winner Quartararo making the step up from Petronas SRT.
Yamaha’s livery is largely similar to that it ran last season, as its title sponsorship with Monster Energy remains in place.
Yamaha won half of the 14 races run last season, but endured a wildly inconsistent season, with its top runner in the championship SRT’s Franco Morbidelli in second on a 2019 M1.
Vinales was the top placed 2020 Yamaha rider in sixth in the standings, having won at the Emilia Romagna GP.
Quartararo’s strong early-season form deserted him in the final rounds, with the Frenchman fading from title contender to eighth in the championship despite a haul of three victories.
Meanwhile Morbidelli, on the ‘2019’ A-Spec machine, rose to finish as Yamaha’s top rider in the standings, behind only Suzuki’s champion Joan Mir. Vinales was best of the Factory-spec riders, in sixth overall.
Valve problems – in the form of reliability issues at Jerez and ultimately a penalty for changing supplier – hung-over Yamaha for much of last season, meaning riders were unable to make full use of their engine allocation.
Although engine design remains frozen for 2021, the Yamaha riders will at least have a full line-up of engines available for this year, which means they can use maximum revs once again (having cut back by 500rpm until Misano last season).
For the chassis, there will be some big decisions to make in terms of whether to switch back to a frame similar to Morbidelli’s specification, or push further in the direction of the 2020 Factory spec.
“The engine is just one element of the bike,” Yamaha MotoGP Project Leader Takahiro Sumi said of the Covid technical freeze. “We are looking to improve our engine performance by working outside of the engine unit itself. We are also working on the chassis and can update the aerodynamics this year.”
While Vinales, 26, has been a clear step ahead of Rossi in terms of results for the past two seasons, he is likely to face a tougher challenge from 21-year-old Quartararo.
Each will be eager to prove they are the future of Yamaha – “healthy competition” as Sumi called it – but first they must work together to solve the turning and rear grip problems that left both without a podium during the last six rounds of 2020.
“Consistency is the key word for this season,” confirmed Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.