The 2021 season starts now for the Monster Energy Yamaha Team. Engines off though, because the presentation - in person for those on-site and virtual for everyone else – comes ahead of the first Losail tests, a warm-up event prior to a championship that will see the two factory riders, Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo, lining up on the grid with just one goal. The world title.
With Valentino Rossi having left the garage, the Spaniard is the reconfirmed rider, the Frenchman the latest hire. With an M1 that is updated in terms of its frame, electronics and engine, the engineers aim to provide a bike that can be effectively ridden by all four Yamaha riders, Morbidelli and Rossi completing the line-up.
Lin Jarvis: "We’re better prepared than last year. Even without Valentino"
Yamaha’s Managing Director considers 2021 in light of what happened last season: "First the pandemic stopped everything and then we started up again, with a compressed racing schedule. We’ll be ready this season, and better prepared. Rossi moves to Petronas and it will be strange without him, but he’ll have factory support”.
Lin talks about the new rider line-up: "Like Vinales, Quartararo will be a title contender. Fabio has the right experience and speed to join the factory team. We know our rivals will be prepared, and this is why we’ll work even harder. Everything we do over the winter is based on the information we had at the end of 2020. We want to be up front".
Massimo Meregalli has headed up the Monster Energy Yamaha team for years. Massimo and his staff will be able to count on a bike that proved to be the most successful during the 2020 season: "The M1 has proved very fast but we were lacking consistency. We’ll work on this aspect, focusing even more on it. I have great confidence in Vinales, as much as Maverick has in himself. Let’s forget 2020 and focus on this year. To win, we need consistent performance across the weekend, from the first practice to the chequered flag".
The Project Director is, unsurprisingly, Japanese. Takahiro Sumi comments: "We’ll have two new line-ups, both strong. On the factory team, Vinales and Quartararo can both win. As can the Petronas team, with Morbidelli and Rossi. Last year we won seven races, and we can do more”. Development of the M1 comes down to all four riders: “With Rossi still working in this field, because his experience is fundamental. We’ll continue to improve, this is our aim. I think it will be a tough competition, but we’re already well prepared”.
Vinales: "We’re stronger and more complete"
The Spaniard will be on the right side of the garage as we look at it head on: "I’m honoured - comments the new ‘team leader’ - and hopefully more mature. I’ll try to be more concrete than I was last year. The season is long and I want to be strong all weekend, from practice to race”.
Races that often saw him in difficulty in 2020: "But I know where to work and already want to put that experience to use in the first race. I’m counting on an M1 that is easier, faster and more competitive. I’ll work hard to help develop it, knowing we can be stronger and more complete".
Quartararo: "Me in Rossi’s place? I still can’t believe it”
Fabio is emotional. It might not seem like a massive leap from Petronas to Monster but consider who the Frenchman has ‘swapped’ with: "I still can’t believe it, I’m on Valentino Rossi’s team. I don’t have experience as a factory rider but it’s a dream come true. I’m ready, despite knowing how much pressure I’ll be under. I’m taking Rossi’s place, it’s something new, I respect Vale".
What’s Fabio’s goal? “To fight for the title. Last year I was lacking a little experience because I’d never led in Moto3 and Moto2. I’ll give it my all and can’t wait to start. I need to forget the past, I just want to live my dream. It’s important for me and for France”.
Translated by Heather Watson