THE 2018 MotoGP season isn’t even underway yet but the first big play has been made in the annual rider silly season for 2019.
Maverick Vinales will stick with Yamaha until the end of 2020, announcing the new deal at the team’s season launch in Madrid.
“I’m really happy that Yamaha and I have extended our contract by two more years,” he said.
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“It’s great for me and the team that we were able to make this announcement this early on, because it gives us a sense of calm: we know that I will continue riding my M1 for the coming three seasons, so now we can just focus on the actual racing.”
The 2019 rider market was expected to be an intriguing one with the contracts of every top rider lapsing at the end of 2018, leaving factory seats at Honda, Yamaha, Ducati, Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia potentially up for grabs.
At least one of those is off the table now with Yamaha’s move to extend their deal with 23-year-old Vinales, whom they lured away from Suzuki last year with the intention that he be their leading rider in years to come.
“It shows clear commitment by both parties and affirms a reciprocal confidence that together we can achieve our mutual goal of becoming MotoGP World Champions,” Lin Jarvis, Yamaha Motor Racing managing director, said.
“Maverick has been a real asset to the team as soon as he came in. He’s full of motivation and never loses sight of his goals.
“The 2017 season wasn’t easy, yet he has already delivered Yamaha three race wins and secured the manufacturer its 500th Grand Prix win in his first year with us.
“Maverick is still very young, so we see a great future for him in Grand Prix racing, and we are very excited to challenge alongside with him during the upcoming three seasons of MotoGP.”
Attention now turns to the other Yamaha seat, currently occupied by Valentino Rossi.
The Italian, who turns 39 years old in three weeks, has previously said that he will weigh up his decision to race on into 2019 after the first few races of this year, but said at the launch that he is not averse to signing a one-year extension to his current contract.