Maverick Viñales seems to have fallen back into the abyss, and we don’t say this because of his Portimão result, which clearly fell well below his expectations, but rather for his reaction after the race. When interviewed by the journalists, he seemed resigned and unsure as to what had gone wrong over the weekend. In addition, he was then targeted by trolls on Twitter, to such an extent that he decided to cancel his profile. So it seems that his mental state might require particular attention right now.

Emotional highs and lows

At the first race of the 2021 season Maverick Viñales was on a high, the winner, married and with a daughter on the way. In race two, he finished fifth but was still fairly happy. The Spaniard seemed to have adopted a positive approach, something he was missing in 2020. But then came the Portuguese weekend, not an easy one for Maverick who may have fallen back into the abyss of last season. 2020 was characterised by these highs and lows in fact. If he won or finished on the podium, he'd give the impression that all his problems with the M1 were solved, but when there were black weekends, his mood would also slump and it seemed as if he had no idea what to do. And yet this new season looked to be getting off to a better start.

The penalty knocked him off balance

And yet it took just one ‘negative’ race for all the problems to rise to the surface again. We hope this was a one-off of course and that Maverick will be smiling again at Jerez. And we say this because, right now, the Yamaha rider certainly doesn’t need any more criticism, seeing as his worries seem to be mental than anything else. The penalty he received in qualifying may well have been the trigger for what turned into a negative weekend. Race Direction ordered him to start from twelfth after he touched the green part of the track during his flying lap. Viñales didn’t appreciate the penalty, also aware that his race start is not his strength. And this led to an uphill struggle in the race, one that he finished eleventh, also thanks to a few crashes. His start? A disaster, just as he himself had probably envisaged. For comparison’s sake, Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia was also penalised, demoted from pole to eleventh on the grid, but the Italian reacted well and crossed the line second.

Maverick, a “headscratcher” for Yamaha?

Just how much can a rider’s mood impact on his results? A great deal. And if we add to this the fact that Viñales is even unable to react to criticism on social media, opting to close his Twitter profile, then the Spaniard’s mood could turn into something of a ticking timebomb for Yamaha. It’s not nice to say, but this could be a problem for Yamaha in terms of results, which is a team’s only goal of course. So how can it be fixed? Only Viñales can do so, working on himself and trying to ride as well as he can (he’s not short on talent), even when his M1 isn’t perfect. If he can take this ‘step’ then he could clearly fight for the title. Otherwise, his season may well be a carbon copy of 2020.

Translated by Heather Watson

MotoGP, has Rins not learned his lesson after last year?