Yamaha's title drought since Jorge Lorenzo's 2015 triumph is the longest the factory has been without a MotoGP crown since Valentino Rossi arrived to transform their fortunes in 2004.

Fittingly, it is the rider that replaced Rossi in the factory team this season that looks on course to return Yamaha to the top of the world.

Fabio Quartararo earned the factory team seat with giant-killing performances at the satellite Petronas squad, where seven podiums as a rookie was followed by three wins and a championship challenge last season.

But the fickle nature of the factory M1 meant 2020 ended under a cloud for Quartararo, who nosedived down the championship table from first to eighth and didn’t finish in the top seven during the last half-a-dozen races.

'Consistency' was the buzzword at Yamaha over the winter and, for Quartararo at least, the M1 has proven a competitive weapon in all tracks and conditions so far.

"We really wanted a better package for 2021, faster and more consistent," team director Massimo Meregalli told the official MotoGP website. "I can say that we have been able to achieve both things because we have been able to win races in fast tracks but also circuits like Assen where you need turning."

It was team-mate Maverick Vinales that took victory in the Qatar season-opener, followed by Quartararo's first win in factory colours the next weekend. The pair returned to Europe equal on points, but their results since have been anything but balanced.

Quartararo has gone on to celebrate a total of six podiums, four wins and build a 34-point title lead over Johann Zarco, despite an arm-pump problem while leading in Jerez and then a 'wardrobe malfunction' with his leathers in Catalunya.

By contrast, Vinales has stood on the podium just once since Qatar and has slipped 61-points adrift of the Frenchman.

"I think Fabio suffered in the first Grand Prix, maybe some pressure, but from the second round he started winning," Meregalli said. "He won in Qatar, then immediately again in Portimao, was close to winning in Jerez without the arm pump issue, then Mugello [and Assen].

"So his performance is very strong and consistent, because he's also been on the podium in the wet which is probably not his favourite circumstance.

"Even if he's only 22, especially I'm seeing how he works and prepares for the races with his crew. It has been a really good surprise. He's very determined but what impressed me the most is he's having fun.

"He's fighting in every session but he's enjoying it and this is an additional positive point."

Enjoyment certainly isn’t a word associated with Vinales since Qatar.

The Spaniard has become increasingly disillusioned by persistent turning and grip issues. A last place finish at Sachsenring proved the final straw and Vinales will now leave the team, at his request, at the end of the season.

"Maverick had a fantastic win in Qatar 1 but then when we moved back to Europe he had problem with turning the bike," Meregalli said. "In Portimao, Jerez and Le Mans we struggled and we were never able to give him a package to turn as he wanted.

"We decided to try something different and from Barcelona the bike started turning, but we had to probably move a bit the balance. Now we improve the turning despite some rear grip [loss]. We’ve also done three races with a different crew chief. I think we are not that far."

Vinales is thought to be heading for Aprilia, although it is still to be confirmed, while Yamaha is likewise yet to announce Vinales' 2022 replacement.

On paper, Petronas Yamaha's Franco Morbidelli is the leading candidate, although it would mean severing the second year of his current SRT contract.