Aprilia anticipate ‘problems’ sooner rather than later between Aleix and Vinales

Aprilia Racing CEO, Massimo Rivola, expects problems to arise between star riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, but how they deal with them throughout the 2023 MotoGP season will be key.
Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia MotoGP Portimao 2023
Maverick Vinales, Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia MotoGP Portimao 2023

While Vinales managed to out-perform Espargaro on a few occasions last season, 2022 largely remained a learning year for the former Yamaha rider in what was his first full season with Aprilia. 

On the other hand, Espargaro pushed on to become a title contender for much of the campaign, while also taking his and the Italian manufacturer’s first-ever MotoGP win in Argentina.

But come the start of this season, Vinales and Espargaro have been much closer in terms of performance, which was highlighted by tough on-track battles in Portimao and Argentina.

The season-opener saw Vinales and Espargaro nearly come to blows twice during the Sprint race, and although no incidents came from the hard-fought racing, Rivola knows this could take place eventually. 

Speaking to MotoGP.com on the ‘Last on the brakes’ podcast, Rivola said this of the pair’s relationship: "He [Espargaro] was a big part in getting Maverick. I was in contact with Aleix to see how this [possibility] was feeling, if we can do it and so he behaved like a captain. 

"He still does that. Now he has a problem in a way because Maverick is really focused. But I feel really lucky. I know that sooner or later there will be a problem between the two of them. But we have made things quite clear before we started racing this year. 

"At the end, they know that respecting each other is the key and they have a million chances to show if they are doing that on and off the track."

Aprilia could find themselves in a situation where they’re having to manage both riders battling it out for race wins which could inevitably lead to tension building within the garage.

But after already watching the pair fight it out in Portimao, albeit for the top five and not a race win, Rivola expects the two Spaniards to remain respectful no matter the circumstances on or off track. 

Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales, Valencia MotoGP test 07 November
Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales, Valencia MotoGP test 07 November

"They know better than us what they are doing on-track," added Rivola. "The level of MotoGP riders now is really, really high and we are speaking about riders that can calculate centimetres to put the wheels. 

"The way they think, how fast they do that is something [amazing]. If their mind is clean they race in that way, if there is something against someone else they race in a different way. 

"I appreciate the fact, in particular Maverick and Aleix in the Sprint races maybe had a bit of a fight, but did it in a very sporting way. 

"In the end, was it right to do it from the simple [lap] time point of view, maybe not? But sometimes it’s also good that they measure each other. It’s their way to communicate with each other."

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