Analysis: Without Rossi, Yamaha must rally round Vinales

Valentino Rossi's injury means it's time for Yamaha to focus all its efforts on Maverick Vinales if it wants to win this year's MotoGP title, says Oriol Puigdemont.

After the initial shock of Rossi’s injury, it’s time to evaluate the possible consequences of such a seismic shock to this year's championship fight.

Of course, this will depend on the number of Grands Prix that Valentino will miss. We already know he is definitely missing Misano, and with a recovery time of 30-40 days for his broken leg, it seems probable he will also sit out Aragon and aim for a comeback at Motegi in mid-October.

Should Rossi miss that deadline and skip the Japanese race, Yamaha is obliged to replace him, as the rules state that the team must replace one of its riders if he or she misses more than two races in succession.

This inevitably has created a public debate about who could be the most appropriate replacement for 'The Doctor', and the first name that springs to mind is that of Johann Zarco.

The Frenchman has impressed everyone in his first MotoGP season - despite ironically also having a number of high-profile clashes with Rossi, who even said that Zarco doesn't know how to overtake because he still uses Moto2 references in terms of distances.

Nonetheless, the idea of seeing Zarco inside the factory Yamaha box would be interesting, and would give us a clear idea as to whether last year’s bike is superior to the the current one. It would also allow Yamaha to compare Zarco with Vinales.

But, as fascinating as it would be for all concerned, such a scenario is nearly impossible. If Yamaha is forced to field a replacement for Rossi, it will probably be test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

From that moment, the strategy that Yamaha should follow is crucial: it must be clear that, due to circumstances beyond its control, it now only has a single bullet to fight for the title: Vinales.

Barring another surprise, this year's crown will be disputed between Andrea Dovizioso, Marc Marquez and Vinales, with Dani Pedrosa still in with an outside chance. Yamaha has to do everything to make life easier for its rider, as Ducati and Honda will.

Vinales was the most talked-about rider during the pre-season and at the early races, but after the first two rounds, he started to feel the pressure of being considered as the favourite for the title.

On top of that, he had to begin trying out different parts in order to develop the M1, while managing the pressure of sharing a garage with one of the most influential riders in Grand Prix racing history.

As a consequence of all those factors, Vinales realised that getting the crown was going to be much more difficult than he initially thought.

But, armed with a third different type of chassis at Silverstone, the Spaniard seemed to recover a version of himself similar to the one we saw in Qatar and Argentina.

Yamaha wants to see this form continue, and logic suggests the Iwata firm will now focus all its efforts on Vinales, its only remaining choice for the title.

The team would also be wise not getting too distracted trying to find the best substitute for Rossi - firstly, because he is irreplaceable, and secondly, because it cannot afford to destabilise Vinales.

Rossi's injury has presented Vinales with a golden chance - and one that may not come again soon - to become the focal point of Yamaha's efforts. Now it's time for the pre-season favourite to show what he is truly made of.

Translation by Irene Aneas

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About this article
Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Maverick Viñales
Teams Yamaha Factory Racing
Article type Analysis