Following Wataru Yoshikawa's promotion by FIAT Yamaha to take the place of the injured Valentino Rossi in the wake of the Italian's leg-breaking Mugello accident last month – and his rather sedate bow for the team in Barcelona last weekend – has the Japanese manufacturer fallen into the same trap of misguidedly rewarding loyalty as did Ferrari with Luca Badoer in F1 in 2009..?
When it was confirmed that the record-breaking multiple MotoGP World Champion was set for a lengthy lay-off, attention naturally turned to who would replace the motorcycling legend for the busy mid-summer stint. Several names were thrown into the ring, but following much speculation, Yamaha ultimately elected to hand over Rossi's bike to its 41-year-old test rider Yoshikawa.
Citing it as an opportunity to get some crucial testing miles under its belt in a racing environment, the decision to give the championship-leading bike to a rider who – through no fault of his own – has no familiarity with the majority of the tracks at which he will compete prompted a considerable degree of criticism and consternation ahead of his outing in the Catalunya Grand Prix.
With the Japanese veteran proceeding to finish the race more than a minute-and-a-half behind his triumphant team-mate Jorge Lorenzo aboard the sister M1 – perhaps predictably, given his complete lack of recent competition or circuit knowledge for that matter – those sentiments only intensified.
Casey Stoner has already branded Yoshikawa a 'nobody' [see separate story – click here
], and former Tech 3 Yamaha ace and double World Superbike Champion James Toseland has revealed to Crash.net
that he wasn't even offered a chance to reprise his role in the premier class [see separate story – click here
The scenario does draw some comparisons – and not particularly favourable ones – with the situation at Ferrari this time last year, when the Scuderia's
long-time test driver Badoer was parachuted in to substitute Felipe Massa in the aftermath of the Brazilian's terrifying high-speed Hungaroring smash from which he was lucky to escape with his sight, and even indeed his life.
Badoer was slated to stand in for Massa until the Paulista was fit-and-well enough to return, but he found himself even more slated by the media, with the British press rather uncharitably dubbing him 'Look How Bad You Are' in a cruel play on his name – and after just two grands prix he was out, replaced in-turn by Force India ace Giancarlo Fisichella.
A sorry way to return to the highest level following more than a decade away from the cut-and-thrust of top flight competition, the chief issue for the likeable Italian was race-rustiness exacerbated by the in-season testing ban and as such – like Yoshikawa – precious little experience of the sport's modern technology.
It was a generous token from Ferrari to reward Badoer's unstinting allegiance to the scarlet cause with a race drive after all that time, but in hindsight it was also a very poor decision indeed – and Yamaha could just find that it has committed a similar error.
Lest we forget, the great Michael Schumacher himself is the same age as Yoshikawa, and even he is proving unable to compete right at the sharp end or regain his erstwhile edge following three years out of the cockpit at Mercedes Grand Prix this season...so did Rossi's far less heralded replacement – who had made but a single MotoGP start prior to his Spanish appearance, and that a full eight years ago – ever really stand a chance?
What do you
think? Was Yamaha right to settle for a test rider rather than giving an up-and-coming star a go…? Is it another Badoer débâcle
..? Have your say by posting a comment following the link below.