Vinales joins Aprilia for 2022 MotoGP season

Aprilia has announced it has signed Maverick Vinales for the 2022 MotoGP season as he gets set to quit Yamaha at the end of 2021.

Yamaha announced on the Monday following the Dutch TT at Assen in June that it – upon request from Vinales – had agreed to part ways with the nine-time MotoGP race winner at the end of this season, one year earlier than his current contract was due to expire.

Vinales joined Yamaha from Suzuki in 2017 and has had a fragmented tenure with the Japanese marque, with the relationship between the pair irreparably souring in recent weeks as his form since winning the Qatar GP has been mixed.

The relationship between Yamaha and Vinales reached its nadir last week, when the manufacturer suspended him and withdrew him from the Austrian GP for trying to blow up his engine during the Styrian GP.

Vinales later apologised for this, blaming his actions on frustration at his situation during the race and in general at Yamaha.

It’s unclear yet whether Vinales will race again in 2021 with Yamaha.

Reports during the Dutch TT weekend linked Vinales with a move to Aprilia, though both he and the Italian marque denied this at the time.

However, Aprilia has now confirmed Vinales’ appointment on a one-year deal with an option to renew, the nine-time MotoGP race winner replacing rookie Lorenzo Savadori next year.

"We are extremely happy to announce that we have signed Maverick Vinales, a very high-level rider and one of the purest talents in the premier category," Massimo Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO, said.

"Our project has now been enriched with the value that Maverick brings - a world champion who has confirmed his talent as a top rider in MotoGP - at a time of great change, after bringing a completely revamped bike to the track and having consistently established ourselves in the group of protagonists, we are also facing a switch in status as a factory team now, in order to take Aprilia to success.

"We are honoured to be able to make all of our best skills available to Vinales along with our enthusiasm and our passion. I am confident that, like Aleix, he will embrace this extremely high-potential project.

"The arrival of Maverick in no way distances Lorenzo Savadori from the team, as he will remain an integral part of the Aprilia Racing family."

Vinales will join Aleix Espargaro next year, with the pair previously team-mates at Suzuki in its first two seasons of its MotoGP return in 2015 and 2016.

The Spaniard’s move to secure the second RS-GP ends hopes of Andrea Dovizioso joining the marque in 2022.

Dovizioso has become Aprilia’s test rider in 2021 having turned down a race ride for this season at the end of 2020, prompting him to take a sabbatical with a view to a full-time MotoGP return in 2022.

All doors back onto the MotoGP grid in 2022 now look closed for Dovizioso.

Franco Morbidelli is set to step up from Petronas SRT to take Vinales’ place at the factory Yamaha squad.

With title sponsor Petronas ending its association with SRT at the end of 2021, SRT’s options are also slender, with its Moto3 rider Darryn Binder set to make the leap directly to MotoGP with the outfit, while the likes of Jake Dixon and Xavi Vierge have also been linked to moves.

It’s understood SRT’s deal with Yamaha has also been renegotiated so that it will only have ‘B-spec’ Yamahas in 2022.

Valentino Rossi protégé Marco Bezzecchi had also been linked to an SRT seat, but now looks set to step up to MotoGP with VR46 Ducati next year, while SRT’s first option Raul Fernandez has been locked into a two-year contract with KTM and Tech3.

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