In the blue corner... the new Yamaha team and machinery
MotoGP: The new Yamaha team and machinery ( - Yamaha MotoGP)

There is something about this time of year that is incredibly exciting. As we await the highly sought after motorcycle season to return, as the weather is nothing but miserable in the UK, the MotoGP teams begin to prepare us for the long-awaited 2017 by unveiling their new livery… and once of the first to do that was the new Movistar Yamaha team.

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Vinales officially unveiled as Movistar Yamaha rider for 2017

As the Yamaha YZR M1 was revealed in all its glory, officially, so was the new addition to the team, a slightly nervous looking (understandably) Maverick Vinales. The Spanish rider, who stole the show in Valencia during two days of testing as he topped the timesheets on both days on his first go on the 2016 M1, took to the stage at Telefonica Headquarters in Madrid, Spain sporting his new Movistar Yamaha uniform.

The Spaniard is sponsored by Alpinestar and his leathers, although they match that of his new teammate, nine times world champion Valentino Rossi, with sponsors, they are slightly darker than the Italians and both of his legs are grey from the knee down!

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

It is clear that from the start, especially after the results from the Valencia test that they are hoping for Vinales to win the championship. The pressure is well on truly on from his side of the team. It is an objective that Vinales confirmed he was there to do and he vowed to “fight for the championship every single day” as that was why he said he was there.

The lack of winglets the biggest difference visibly from 2016

After the initial interviews took place with the riders, team bosses and sponsors, the riders returned to the stage to reveal the bike. Rossi and Vinales pulled away the sheets simultaneously and with huge grins on their faces they unveiled the 2017 machines; Rossi later took to social media to describe how the ‘first date’ always is amazing.

The 2017 livery that was revealed was very similar to that of the 2016 M1; the biggest difference was the lack of winglets on the front of the fairing. Changes in regulations, after safety issues were highlighted throughout the season, led to the winglets being banned. Designed to reduce front end lift of the machines, they proved to be a vital addition for some and so a lot of work will be needed ahead of the start of the season to compensate for the aerodynamic changes they made.

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Vital statistics of the 2017 Yamaha YZR-M1

The main body of the fairing is a slightly darker shade of blue than the 2016 bike. The ‘Movistar’ logo, for the main sponsor of the team, is slightly bigger on the side panels of the M1; there have also been some slight changes to some other decals on the bike. The YZR-M1 is a 1000cc 1 litre inline four engine produces 240bhp. It is encased on an aluminium frame and with the carbon brakes fitted weighs in at 157kg. The Yamaha is set to reach 350km/h and is built to lean to angles exceeding 60 degrees. It is definitely a machine with which they “choose to make history”; the hashtag the team have chosen to run with as they unveiled things ahead of the season.

Rossi to begin his 12th season with Yamaha

The 2017 season for Rossi will be the Italian’s 12th with the team; he has worked with some of his crew for the last 17 years. When asked about his preparation ahead of the 2017 season he spoke of how he is having a “normal” start; “the same way” as usual. He confirmed that they are “always trying to make a bit better” and are working to “improve the preparation”. He described how it is “always a very special moment of the season” that he said is full of “great emotion”, he confirmed that they are “quite ready”.

Rossi on the Valencia test and first impressions of new teammate

Reflecting on the test immediately after the 2016 season finale, Rossi was asked about his first impressions of his new teammate. Discussing how he is familiar with having a strong teammate, as 2015 MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo previously held the spot alongside him before he decided to move to Ducati which led to Vinales replacing him at Yamaha, he admitted that Vinales “impressed [him] very much already from the first day”.

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Rossi joked about how he would have preferred that Vinales needed “a little more time” to become familiar and fast on the bike, he continued to compliment his new teammate saying “he is already very strong”. During the 2017 season he feels that they can “make a good job together” when working to “improve the bike” and when attempting to “bring the bike on the podium every week”.

Tyres and electronics the priority during testing

He spoke of how he first came to grips with the 2017 machinery in Valencia, and they will next have the opportunity to complete more distance on the bike at the next official test in Sepang; this is set to take place on January 30th. His plans for the test are to complete more work on the bike and he hopes they can “discover a very good potential”; he feels already that it “looks like [they} can be stronger”. Although he is aware that the next three tests that will take place ahead of the season opener in Qatar on March 26th, he confirmed that the “first impression was very positive”.

Regulations have changed slightly since 2016, but none will have as big an impact as those that were introduced at the start of the previous season. Rossi mentioned how nine different riders won races over the 18 rounds due to the impact of the changes and put this down to French tyre manufacturers Michelin becoming the new tyre supplier for the MotoGP class, and the ECU that all riders share had an impact on the results.

Rossi confirmed that one of the main focuses again was the tyres; he plans to improve “especially the front” as he admitted it gave them “some problems in the last year”. As well improving the performance with the tyres he hopes to improve the settings alongside the ECU as although the component is the same for all riders, he said “you can work on the bike to improve your own”.

Rossi focused on fighting for victory each round

The Italian rider is determined to collect his 10th world championship title and the topic soon changed to that. He knows that it is “important” to ensure he has “good races” and that he has to always try to be “fast and competitive” in order to “fight for the victory”. He plans to “stay concentrated and always be strong”. When it came to the championship he said, “You never know”, and he spoke of how the first race proves significant in allowing the riders to “understand the potential of the bike” and the riders around him. He said, “The important thing is to be strong every Sunday”.

Vinales welcomed into the Yamaha family where he plans to make history

Vinales recently turned 22, a celebration he shared with his new ‘family’ at Yamaha. He described how it felt “incredible” to become part of the family and described how it felt really food to speed one of the special days of the year with them. He confirmed that he feels “really motivated”, he signed with Yamaha to “do the objective”, presumably collect his first MotoGP championship title  and he mentioned that he is “working really hard and doing everything [he] can do to be the best Maverick” that he possibly can be.

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Finally, Vinales’ views on his first experience of the M1

The conversation turned to the Valencia test, an event that they previously were unable to discuss as Vinales was still officially under contract with his previous team, Team Suzuki Ecstar where he had spent two years developing the evolving GSX-RR. He knew the Yamaha was really fast after following it on track. When he first experienced the M1, and rides it the way he usually does he found the bike was “really good” for him and that he was able to “adapt really fast”. He spoke of how he was “quite surprised” that he was able to “go so fast” and “just in a few days”.

Vinales was asked what was harder, switching from Moto2 to MotoGP, or switching manufacturers, and he described that both scenarios came with their own difficulties and that when changing to MotoGP, adapting to the new electronics was the “difficult part” for him.

Vinales has high hopes and a lot of determination

He seems very prepared to do “a lot of work” that is needed in the paddock and is hoping to complete what he has in mind. Again presuming his main focus is gaining the championship title, he said, “Honestly, it will be really difficult, but I will fight for it!

When asked about what stood out for him on the YZR-M1 he identified the acceleration out of the corners. With his riding style, he likes to pick the bike up as soon as he possibly can and ‘get on the gas’ as early as he can and he found that with the Yamaha he was able to do that straight away. He confirmed that he felt the Yamaha will certainly prove beneficial for him during the 2017 season.

Ahead of the first race he plans to complete a lot of work on the tyres, the electronics, and the feeling he gets from the bike towards the end of the race when they have covered the majority of race distance; something he feels is key in the MotoGP class. Once they have found the solutions to that he then spoke of how he plans to focus on setting the fastest lap times in preparation for qualifying.

Vinales keen to know Rossi’s secret

When asked if he could ask his new teammate, Rossi for one tip he revealed he was curious as to how he could “stay at the level for so many years”. Describing this he spoke of how he is wanting to know his secret as he is aware that the MotoGP is “really difficult” and how every year the “level is more high”, and was wanting to know how “Valentino is still winning?” On the other hand, Rossi was curious as to how Vinales was proving to be so fast!

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Although Rossi seemed much more relaxed on stage at the unveiling of the 2017 YZR-M1 than his young new teammate, there appeared to be none of the hostility that certain media outlets have described. The two were pictured with hands embraced looking determined to do well; a strong collaboration ready to go out and fight for the titles.

Team bosses discuss the changes for 2017

Also present on stage was General Manager of Motorsports, Kouichi Tsuji alongside Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing Lin Jarvis and Massimo Meregali (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director).

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Tsuji spoke of how the M1 has  “hungry” character and listed great qualities it has such as good braking, its ability to carry the corner speed, and very good agility. He spoke of how they are “developing the concept” based on their “philosophy” which they hope will “get the Yamaha bike character back again”. He confirmed that after the Valencia test, and private Sepang test, they had “a positive feeling from both riders” which led them to believe that their “direction is very good” and although they will have to wait for another three test to be completed, that this “step is very positive”.

Tsuji compares old to new

Comparing the 2017 machine to the previous model he said, “Looking from the outside it is very similar to last year’s bike”, only this time they have “just removed the winglet”. However, he spoke of how under the fairing the bike is "is completely different from last year’s bike” and that over the duration of the remaining tests it is likely it will continue to be “changing lots”, and he himself is “curious how the bike will change”.

Discussing the effect the lack of winglets will have on the bike, he felt it would not be as big as in comparison to some other bikes. He knows it will be “very difficult to compensate” the difference made with the addition of the winglets, however he feels that “the aerodynamics is not a main issue”. Tsuji spoke of how they plan to “make the base of the bike higher” and he feels the “aerodynamics will enhance the bikes character”; it is something they will discover in the future. He knows that they will “try many things” by the end of the three tests.

( - Yamaha MotoGP)
( - Yamaha MotoGP)

Jarvis reflects on the journey so far with Yamaha

Discussing how the goals every year are to “do the maximum possible” for the brand, company and Movistar, Jarvis reflected on the partnership that began back in 2014 between Movistar and Yamaha. Speaking about a less "organised team” he described how the team launch took place on the starting grid in Qatar. Since then, over the last three years he felt they had “achieved exceptional results”. Mentioning how they have been second in the manufacturer’s championship twice, won it once, and collected two team titles, he felt it came down to “the teamwork” that he felt has proved “really important”.

As well as it being “essential” to have two young riders and the team they do, he described how in Yamaha it is “all about energy, cooperation and collaboration” and that in 2017 he feels they have a “fantastic team” with which they are “going for the win”. He confirmed that their “intention this year” is to “bring back the title” by which he meant the rider’s title, team title and the constructor’s title. He said, “We’ll do our best!

Jarvis reveals efforts made to make Vinales feel welcome

Jarvis went on to discuss Vinales’ amalgamation with the team. Confirming that they “only lost one man in the winter break” he felt that when “somebody comes in and joins an existing team of experts” that it “makes life easier” as they were without the “learning process” that would otherwise come with the rider, engineers and mechanics. He feels that they have instead been able to provide the Spaniard with a “perfectly working functioning team to come into”.

He also felt there was significance in the “human connection” and he highlighted how they attempted to show a great deal of respect to the youngster and his personality. At the Valencia test he described how they “created for him a special livery” as they felt that “his name is quite special” and ran with the ‘Top Gun’ movie theme with him being named Maverick.

Jarvis reflects on Vinales initial performance

Jarvis felt that they “created a bike immediately that was his” and also “an environment that he was comfortable with”. Reflecting on their efforts he described how it “seems to have worked” has the results during the test proved he was “comfortable straight away”. Jarvis explained how he “very quickly adapted to the bike” and that the “team work between his crew and [their] engineers was immediately good”. Overall he claimed that they “achieved [their] initial goals” and mentioned how it was “really nice to have new blood onboard”.

Meregali on Vinales and the team’s approach

Meregali described how the approach they took was the one they “used in the past which allowed [them] to win four or five titles in the last 10 years”; again he felt this was confirmed by the “results and the feeling” they gained in Sepang in November. He also confirmed that they “feeling is really good from both riders” and that they are feeling “really optimistic” as well as “looking forward to testing in Sepang” again at the end of January.

Meregali admitted that although they knew that Vinales “was really fast”, that they “couldn’t expect that he was so fast so quick”. He confirmed Jarvis’ intentions to “create and ambient familiar to him” and spoke of how hey then tried to “supply him with a competitive and comfortable bike”. He admitted that he thought Vinales was “going to take some more time to get used to it”, but that they discovered after “two or three runs”, that Vinales was “already there”. He confirmed that “all of the comments” that Vinales made about the bike during the tests were “always very positive about the bike”.