Yamaha has confirmed that Maverick Vinales will remain with their factory MotoGP team for the next three seasons, after the Spanish superstar signed a two year extension to his current contract, which was due to expire at the end of 2018.
Vinales set the early season pace in 2017, his debut year on the YZR-M1, but faded to end the campaign a distant third behind Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso. His signing is the first piece in the ‘silly season’ jigsaw, the frenzied period of speculation caused by many of the top riders being out of contract at the end of the season.
The signing was announced as Yamaha and team sponsors Movistar unveiled their 2018 livery at a glamorous launch in Madrid earlier today. The bikes themselves look very similar to those campaigned in 2017, although the manufacturer claims that they have not been standing still in pursuit of their rivals. The main difference in the look of the 2018 M1, which still may get an overhaul between now and the first race in March, is the new logo of Spanish telecoms giant Movistar, which changes from green to white and gives the bike a more balanced and elegant appearance.
“I’m really happy that Yamaha and I have extended our contract by two more years,” said Vinales. “It’s great for me and the team that we were able to make this announcement this early on, because it gives us a sense of calm: we know that I will continue riding my M1 for the coming three seasons, so now we can just focus on the actual racing. I’m very satisfied with this decision. I have a lot of belief in the team and in Yamaha and I’m happy that they feel the same way. I want to thank Yamaha for their vote of confidence, and also the fans, who are always supporting us. We will continue to work hard. We will be pushing to the maximum at all the Grands Prix and I look forward to three more incredible seasons together!”
Team-mate Valentino Rossi gave little away regarding his future. The MotoGP icon is 39-years-old next month and has expressed a desire to continue racing at the highest level beyond his current contract, which ends after the 2018 season. He is expected to make a decision on his future after a few races and, speaking at the launch, he said: “The team presentation is special every year, also for me, because when you see your bike in the new colours, you start to feel excited. During the winter break I always miss riding my M1, and after seeing it today I want to ride it as soon as possible. I only have to wait a few more days!
“Sincerely, I’m looking forward to starting the new season. Last year, I had one win and six podiums, but also some problems and injuries. We want to make our fifth year with Movistar memorable, so this year we will be pushing as hard as we can. The test in Sepang will be important. It’s the first opportunity for my guys to get together this year, which will be fun, but we’ll soon get serious, because we want to get an idea of our level as soon as possible.”
Rossi and Vinales will now travel to Malaysia for the first official pre-season tests, which take place at the Sepang circuit from Sunday.