Paddock Pass Podcast Episode 127: Evaluating Yamaha's Dynamite Week In MotoGP

It has been a wild week for Yamaha in MotoGP. On Tuesday, they announced that Maverick Viñales had signed a two-year contract extension to stay with the Monster Energy Yamaha squad for 2021-2022. They followed that up with announcements on Wednesday that Fabio Quartararo would be Maverick Viñales' teammate in the factory squad, and that Valentino Rossi had been given time to decide his future, and promised a factory bike, but not in the Monster Energy Yamaha factory team. And they finished the week off by announcing on Thursday that Jorge Lorenzo would be a test rider for Yamaha for the 2020 season.

That gave the Paddock Pass Podcast crew plenty to get their teeth into. Steve English, Neil Morrison, and David Emmett gathered to discuss what all this means for the future of Yamaha. What does it mean for the development direction of Yamaha? Will this allow them to finally beat Marc Marquez? What will Valentino Rossi decide to do, and how does this affect his decision to continue or retire? And does this bring a VR46 MotoGP team closer to reality?

We address all these questions, and answer a number of questions raised on the topic from listeners on Twitter.

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I thought for sure that when I logged onto that there would be news of a Yamaha press release stating that Johann Zarco had been signed to replace Rossi for the 2020 season. Thumb down, Gigi.

Yamaha's very clever strategic move means neither Vinales or Quartararo is available for Ducati or Honda until 2023.  The podcast correctly reflected on what Yamaha's move may mean for Ducati.  But what about Honda?  It has all its eggs in the Marc Marquez basket, and he is apparently taking longer to recuperate from his shoulder surgery than he did from the previous such operation.   If the Yamaha riders win early in the season - as Vinales did in 2017 - and keep the pressure on Marquez, he will not be able to streak away to a healthy points lead by mid-season.  It would be irresponsible to suggest his brother Alex will step up to the plate and be battling for podiums early in 2020.  He may be struggling just to score points.  Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami are unlikely to be regularly battling for podiums so that leaves Marc (again) as the Honda standard-bearer.  If both Vinales and Quartararo are able to score wins for Yamaha, and Dovizioso also starts the year the way he did in 2019, then we could see the championshp go all the way to the final round at Valencia.  The last time that happened (2015) Yamaha won the championship.

Thanks guys. Great as usual.

Regarding Jorge, increasingly I think he will show that he intends to spearhead making himself the bike he wants to race. I expect to see him at Barcelona and Valencia on Sunday in race livery.

"But he said he was retiring from racing."
The Honda
"But he said he doesn't want to, and has been fearing injury!"
On the Honda, and said so to get off of that bike and out of his contract. I believe he intends to race a Yamaha for 2021 and briefly disappointed that it can't be in Blue.

No fishing (yes, he will have pictures of himself vacationing at a beach, no he won't do much of that). No putting on weight eating all that ham. Just bikes. Watch.

Marc is never leaving Honda. He will win the 2020 Championship unless very injured for more than a short time. This is not a preferable thing for fans. However, the swelling surge behind him is huge right now. He is providing a draft. The peak Valentino period was much less interesting 2nd place through to being in the points. 2017 through today has been magnificent. We are in an important moment. Yamaha is transformed (not just the bike), albeit leaving some much needed horsepower out of the equation. Their trajectory is trending up.

KTM's trajectory is trending up too. Doubts about their formula remain, but slimming. The Binder is slotting in behind Pol.

The Aprilia project just trended way up, and Aleix should be pleased unless plagued with reliability problems on Sundays. But they need a rider that isn't Iannone OR Smith as soon as possible. The needle is wiggling around on this one. Exciting prospects.

Ducati has everything there but "that" rider. Nature abhors a vacuum. Miller isn't yet crested. Zarco is there. Mir or Rins might. Binder or the hottest Orange kid could. A new wunder kid will soon if they don't. Red has SO much money to throw at a next Casey. The bike is a gem now. They could use a rider pipeline from a Moto3 project, it would be a pipe dream to see another bike added. But for now Ducati is latent and perhaps trending flat.

Rins/Mir competition and skill noted and appreciated. The bike needs to evolve another step, as well as a Suzuki rider. They may. But enough Suzuki project and resources disappointment is in their wake for caution in optimism. Trending flat relative to the grid gains around them?

This Honda is horrible and can be. Cal has a metal filled foot in California. They will retain fastest Japanese rider and Other Marquez. Good luck filling the 2nd LCR seat. Will it be one of those riders bumbling over from Ducati? A kid? A hopeful Orange escapee? Does it much matter? Trending flat but with no one yet in 2nd place behind the Marc. Marc's 2nd shoulder slower to recover than expected just means he is the favorite to win everything from Qatar on, rather than clear favorite. He is already riding.

Marquez will be beaten. Plenty of popcorn is on hand here to enjoy the saga.