Yamaha: A bike which suits both Vinales and Rossi

Potentially the team looking for the biggest improvements this winter, testing in 2018 left Yamaha at a crossroads with both Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi seeking to pull the YZR-M1 development in seemingly different directions.

Even before the Valencia and Jerez tests, Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis detailed “very important decisions” and upon trailing new engine specifications – targeting a cure to its harsh acceleration at low RPMs – the outcome split its two riders with Vinales content with progress while Rossi was left searching for more.

“We struggled to get to grips with the bike for a long time but in Thailand things started to turn around and we can say we’ve made small, incremental steps,” Jarvis said in Valencia. “We have to make some very important decisions during the next two or three months.

“We need to decide some essential elements for the base of the bike and we need to get it right. Last winter we didn’t make the right decisions and were unable to correct our problems. We need to and have to get it right so it is very important.”

While finding solutions to suit both riders remains the ultimate goal for Yamaha, Jarvis accepts compromises will be required due to MotoGP engine specification regulations. Fixes through its electronics package have also been high on the list, with engineering hand Michele Gadda switching from its World Superbike efforts and providing early progress, but Yamaha’s fundamental package picks could make or break its 2019.

“We end up with some things that are unified. One thing unified is the engine spec. That’s something we can’t change. We can only choose one,” Jarvis told Crash.net in Malaysia. “So it’s very, very important that we choose the correct spec as we start the year.

“More or less, all other things can be adjusted, modified, changed, personalised. Already there are quite some differences in their two bikes. With the core being the same, there are quite some differences.”

Where Rossi’s power and influence extends could become a deciding factor in Yamaha’s direction, in effect experience over youth, and equally how Vinales negotiates his part of the package after feeling his calls fell on deaf ears during 2018 – something Jarvis disagrees with.

The rider relationship dynamic at Honda and Yamaha may face different potential obstacles but which team can extract the most in development and performance could be a key results indicator for 2019.

Suzuki: Building on 2018 by avoiding a 2017 repeat

Having ticked off almost every target last season apart from a race win, Suzuki goes into 2019 wary of suffering déjà vu when a similarly promising 2016 campaign was followed with a poor engine specification choice, plus the departure of Maverick Vinales to Yamaha, to set-up a frustrating 2017.

Suzuki team manager Davide Brivio was keen to highlight lessons must be learnt from that experience and with an established MotoGP test team and rider in former World Superbike champion Sylvain Guintoli preparations for 2019 were well underway even before its race riders began post-season testing.

While talk of a Suzuki satellite team was quelled in Valencia, with the Japanese manufacturer preferring to concentrate its resources directly to the factory team as options for additional teams remain limited, Brivio is confident plans are already in place to retain its momentum into this year.

“We are very pleased and proud with the improvements compared to 2017,” Brivio said in Valencia. “We always said we made a mistake on the engine selection for 2017 and the regulations didn’t allow us to recover from this mistake. We identified the problem but couldn’t change it.”

Brivio has also placed faith in Alex Rins leading the Suzuki line while rookie Joan Mir gets up to speed in the premier class and feels the team’s collective experience and knowledge gained since returning to MotoGP as a factory effort in 2015 can culminate into a promising package.

“Alex is growing up and showing his talent. The internal competition has also helped us between Alex and Andrea,” he said. “Everything improved together: bike, riders and as a team.

“Alex goes into his third season and might have some pressure but that is the sport. Next year he will be the reference rider but he has shown that already. The next step is very difficult to improve on but our target is to do better in 2019.

“For Joan, it will be his first year but we’ve seen a very talented rider already. We’ve seen with Maverick and Alex that a rider with talent must work and I hope with Joan it will be the same with a lot of work in the right direction.

“I hope that he and Alex will compete very early in the team as that will help both riders to improve the results. It is what we see in other teams with the two riders trying to beat each other as it benefits the team through development and results.”

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