The Aprilia rider prepares for his second season aboard the Italian bike, his ninth in the top class
The 2013 Moto3 champion turned 28 yesterday, providing us with an opportunity to look back at what has already been a very long career, spanning twelve world championship seasons. The challenge he took on last year with Aprilia is perhaps his toughest to date, the Spaniard having stood out as a top rider in all the categories in which he has previously raced.
In 2013 Viñales lifted the Moto3 championship trophy, finishing ahead of Alex Rins and Luis Salom. His subsequent move to Moto2, in 2014, allowed the Spaniard to showcase his many talents, aggressive in riding style and boasting the kind of speed that would see him called up to MotoGP after just one year in the intermediate class. In his rookie Moto2 season, Viñales was able to amass four race wins and finish the championship in third place overall.
MotoGP and the first win with Suzuki
Viñales’ debut in MotoGP, in 2015, came with a general awareness that he was to be a future top rider. Riding a still immature Suzuki, the Spaniard immediately showed his stuff, doing better than anyone else with the Hamamatsu machine and winning at Silverstone the following year. This was a first win for the rider, but also a first for Suzuki since its return to the world championship. That victory on British soil attracted a lot of attention, and Yamaha management began to consider him as a rider to pair with Valentino Rossi in the post-Jorge Lorenzo era. Yamaha’s decision turned out to be spot-on, with Viñales’ debut aboard the M1 in 2017 proving to be one of the most explosive in recent MotoGP history.
The Spaniard appeared competitive during winter testing, a more than credible "anti-Marquez" in fact. And he backed this up by winning three of the first five races of the season. The future appeared more than rosy for Viñales and the Iwata manufacturer, but a certain inconsistency in his performance and results would sometimes prevent him from achieving what he deserved.
When the bike and track conditions matched his riding style, the Spaniard was (and is) fast like few others, a feature that was upset by the fact the M1 did not meet his standards, which inevitably made for some highs and lows that, in turn, convinced both Viñales and Yamaha management that the Spaniard would be unable to achieve the world title.
The challenge at Aprilia and title chances
Viñales’ numbers make him one of the most successful riders currently competing in the world championship, with 25 race wins across the classes, nine of which in the top class, out of a total of 206 races, and 71 podiums in all. His best season was 2017, his first year with Yamaha, in which the Spaniard scored three races wins and seven podiums to round out the season third overall, behind Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso. But the relationship with Yamaha came to a brusque and less than positive end meaning that, mid-way through 2021, Viñales married the Aprilia cause, joining fellow countryman Aleix Espargaró with the dual aim of returning to the top of the reigning class, after a couple of less than convincing years, and carrying the Noale manufacturer to fresh heights.
After an initial transition period, Viñales was able to find his feet in the Aprilia garage in 2022, riding a bike that at times appeared tailor-made for him. And yet even at Aprilia, the former Suzuki rider confirmed what we’ve already said, proving to be fast and competitive on certain occasions, but disoriented and in difficulty when the technical context failed to meet with his expectations.
After a first half of the season that was short on results, the second half saw the Spaniard find better feeling and amass three podiums in four races (Assen, Silverstone and Misano). He just missed out on the win at Silverstone after a battle all the way to the last lap with Pecco Bagnaia. Having just turned 28, Viñales is probably aboard the last train that might carry him towards his world title dream – a goal that appeared a lot more attainable during his first years in MotoGP than it does now. Although the Aprilia has improved a great deal, it still needs to demonstrate that it can fight for the title, while the Spaniard must show that he can ride around problems, both the technical, relating to the bike, and the personal, in terms of his conviction that he can always be competitive.
Maverick Viñales: the stats year by year
Bike: FTR Honda
Bike: Yamaha and Aprilia