The factory lost constructors’ and teams’ points for the engines used at the opening Jerez round – plus the point gained by Franco Morbidelli in Austria 2, when he used an Jerez 1 engine in practice – after admitting it had changed valve manufacturer relative to the sample engine provided to MotoGP organisers on March 25.
The controversy is that the Yamaha riders have been allowed to keep all of their world championship points, meaning Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales (first and second in the season-opening race) remain second and third in the title chase behind Suzuki’s Joan Mir.
Most outspoken on the subject was Repsol Honda’s Alex Marquez, who said: “When you cheat, you need to accept and Yamaha accepted and they said they cheated, and they were with the MSMA.
“But you know, we are the World Championship, MotoGP, everybody is looking at us. We try to be the reference for the young riders, for young kids and we try to be an example with everything we do here.
“I think this is not the best example for everybody. I remember when I was really young in karting, you never know if a mechanic or a father tried to adjust something and add something which is not legal.
“At that point you finish the race, they open your engine and imagine saying to a kid, 10 years old, that his mechanic cheated and they are disqualified from that race.
“We are not an example because that rule is for everybody and the penalty is not an example.
“For me it’s ridiculous because in the end the constructors’ championship – maybe next year everybody will remember who won that title this year, but in two years they will forget.
“The most important thing here is to win the rider’s world title, and for me it’s not a fair penalty for Yamaha.
“They also took profit in Jerez but I don’t know if they take the profit for the rest of the year and the next one, as the engine must stay the same. It’s a ridiculous penalty in my opinion.”
Mir’s Suzuki team manage Davide Brivio, while backing the decision not to punish the Yamaha riders, added: “In my opinion, if they [Yamaha] win, there is a shadow on their championship.”
Yamaha said the change of valve supplier was ‘due to an internal oversight and an incorrect understanding of the current regulation’, adding that both types of valve ‘were manufactured according to one common design specification’.
Nonetheless, it is rumoured that while the physical size and shape was the same from both suppliers, the composition was different. If not, and both valve types were perfectly identical, it would have been impossible to prove a different supplier from examination alone.
Some difference in the valves would also explain why the switch of supplier backfired so badly in the form of two engine failures at Jerez 1, since when the Yamaha riders have been restricted to using their other engines.
Those other engines are fitted with ‘stronger’ valves from the original, homologated, supplier – although Morbidelli still went on to have a failure at Jerez 2, after which the maximum rpm is thought to have been dropped.
Yamaha explains ‘valve A’ and ‘valve B’ suppliers
Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis explained to BT Sport how the situation occurred and why Yamaha believed the mix of valve suppliers for ‘identical’ parts was not against the rules.
Except that the valves weren’t identical, due to ‘nuances’ between the two suppliers and due to a ‘fault’ with the new batch. However, documentation needed to prove this fault to Yamaha’s rivals could not be provided to the MSMA, who would need to be convinced that Yamaha hadn’t just pushed its valve design over the limit by using a lighter mix of materials.
“There’s a big misunderstanding because people talk about ‘switching valves’,” Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis told BT Sport.
“We planned to run this season with a certain spec of valves from a certain supplier. During last year when we were ordering parts we understood that the supplier was going to stop producing that valve.
“Yamaha then searched for another supplier with the same spec valve. No performance advantage. That was done and we then [had a mix] of valves from both suppliers for the 2020 season.
“Yamaha considered these valves to be identical. The regulations don’t say you can’t use two different suppliers, it says the parts must be identical in every respect. This was the misunderstanding in Japan.
“The sample engine for this season was then fitted with used [old] valves, let’s call it valve ‘type A’. But we began the season with eight engines with valve ‘type B’. It was an innocent misjudgement of the regulations.
“Then we had a technical failure [at Jerez] and when we investigated we found that not only the ‘B’ valves were different from the sample engine, but had a technical failure. Some weakness. The batch produced followed a different procedure. That’s why we requested to the MSMA to change the valves. We were unable to get the evidence from the valve supplier so we withdrew that application and we looked for another solution.
“But we were transparent from the beginning that we wanted to use the other [‘A’] valves, that are identical, and it was [during that discussion] that a red light alerted us that those valves could be considered different. So we suspended use of the [Jerez] engines, apart from practice and qualifying in Austria for two riders. All our engines, apart from the initial eight, have now been fitted with type [‘A’].
“So it was an error in the protocol because there was no advantage gained. We should have asked permission… But we did not ‘switch the valves’.”
But the engine saga is far from over for Yamaha.
With their Jerez 1 engines parked, mileage is rising on the others – Vinales being forced to take an extra (sixth) engine at Valencia, meaning he will start the race from pit lane.
A similar fate could yet await Quartararo and Morbidelli in the remaining three rounds…