Sixth place in this year’s MotoGP World Championship means the lowest Maverick Vinales has been ranked since his rookie 2015 season, at Suzuki.
But the Spaniard himself rates it as the ‘worst season of his career’, with hopes of inheriting Marc Marquez‘s crown disappearing with just one win and three podiums from the 14 rounds.
Vinales did salvage the honour of being the top Factory-spec M1 rider but that was of little consolation, especially with Franco Morbidelli sweeping to second overall behind Suzuki’s world champion Joan Mir on the ‘lower’ A-spec machine.
“At least I won this little championship,” Vinales said of fending-off future team-mate Fabio Quartararo by five points. “It’s something positive. But obviously, it has been a totally disastrous season. The worst season of my career. It’s hard to take that.
“But anyway, now it’s time to go home, stay calm, and it’s up to others to worry, I will work on [improving] myself.”
The hero-or-zero form of the grip-sensitive Factory M1 saw Vinales’ race results swing between 1st and 14th place finishes.
Vinales had been just one point from the title lead after victory in Misano but didn’t even stand on the podium in the seven races that followed, managing just 49 out of a possible 175 points, not helped by a pit-lane start for an extra engine at Valencia.
Valve problems from the Jerez season-opener forced all of the Yamaha riders to spend much of the season on just 2-3 engines, hurting their top speed.
Cornering advantages, when grip was available, helped patch the gap in qualifying, but overtaking was often a gruelling task and it was no coincidence that many of Yamaha’s seven wins were lights-to-flag affairs.
“If we started first or second, for sure it’s a totally different race,” Vinales said of his eleventh-place finish at the Portimao finale, just ahead of team-mate Valentino Rossi, with Quartararo in 14th. “Because when I was alone, I was able to do the rhythm that Jack and Frankie were riding [second and third].
“The problem is that when you get involved in the middle [of the pack], you are done. They overtake you on the straight, you have to brake very hard, the front starts to give up, so it’s everything in trouble.
“As we always say, we have to start first and push. If you don’t do that, you are in trouble, you go backwards.
“Honestly, I just want to say that for sure it has been four or five races which have been a complete disaster for us. So we will see [for next year]. Right now, our potential is to be top ten. So it changes the movie quite a lot.”
Vinales had gone into the final round holding fourth in the world championship and as one of six riders in with a chance of claiming second place.