Manuel Pecino Photos courtesy 2snap &Waldemar da Rin
Definition: Explosive cyclogenesis is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs when a mass of hot air collides with another of cold air, generating devastating effects similar to those of a tropical cyclone.
That is more or less the description of what happened last weekend on the left side of the Yamaha box, Maverick Viñales’s side. The tension has been growing for months between the Catalan rider and his chief mechanic, Ramón Forcada, went from stony silence to an explosive confrontation.
The tension has been growing for months between Viñales and his chief mechanic, Ramón Forcada, went from stony silence to an explosive confrontation.
The storm begins to set when Ramón Forcada, Maverick Viñales’s technical lead, makes a statement to Movistar about his dismissal as the Catalan rider’s man of confidence. In those statements, Forcada assures that at no time has the rider spoken with him, that the notification was given by the team manager. “He has not spoken to me, I don’t know whether because he is educated or a coward,” he states at one point in that interview.
Forcada himself realizes that using the term “coward” has been an error, and asks the journalist who is recording him to repeat the take. In Movistar, the team’s main sponsor agrees with it. In that new interview Forcada says: “The rider hasn’t told me anything, not a single word. Yamaha told me days ago that there was a possibility and well, we are looking to find a solution with Yamaha. What failed? I don’t know, ask him, he has not said a single word, not one complaint, not a single bad indication, absolutely nothing, you should ask him, not me … ”
“What failed? I don’t know; he has not said a single word, not one complaint, not a single bad indication, absolutely nothing, you should ask him, not me … “, Ramón Forcada
Questioned about how this situation was affecting the work inside the box, Forcada made clear the awkwardness and the rarefied environment the situation was generating. “Nothing has changed at all. It’s now like, what’s normal? What is the criteria … For us, for the mechanics … The team has been working the same. I’ve been on this team for 11 years and nothing has changed here. What happens is that each rider has his needs or his wishes. This is something I don’t know, as the rider has never said anything to anyone, we don’t know, you have to talk to him.”
“Here we all are, or at least try, to be professionals, we do the same work, the relationships are the same as before, for me there is no difference. I‘m going to try to make the bike win until the last race with him, I don’t know how that will go the way things are now… Same as now, I don’t know. I’ll try to work as usual, as I have done all my life, this can’t change. Besides, I don’t know how to do it in any other way. Now that this has come out, they ask how are you going to work? Well, I don’t know how to work any other way. I’ll do it as always.”
Obviously Viñales was aware of all this, including the “coward” part, and obviously this didn’t help the already strained relations. But tensions increased a degree further when on Saturday afternoon, once FP3 was over, the television images showed Maverick Viñales entering the box applauding ironically to his team after being out of Q2 at the last moment of practice.
The television images showed Maverick Viñales entering the box applauding ironically to his team after being out of Q2 at the last moment of practice.
That isolated image was interpreted as a disparagement to the team, although later in the post-session press conference, Maverick assured that he was applauding himself for having incorrectly strategized during the session. An explanation that sounded like a half-truth having been constructed in the meeting between the rider and the top team managers held just before his appearance in front of the media, said to avoid blasting the team in the box.
It was true that there had been a mismanagement of the practice and no one else was responsible for it, because in the end it’s the rider who has the last word on how things are done. But if it was true that his applause wasn’t really to snub the team but himself, he was ironically congratulating himself for allowing him to be convinced by Ramón Forcada to not use the strategy he had proposed earlier.
It was in the final stages of FP3 when a situation occurred that turned the Viñales-Forcada relationship upside down.
For the FP3 (remember that this is the one that sets the top 10 positions on the starting grid), Viñales asked his chief mechanic to use two soft rear tires in the final part to guarantee moving to Q2. Instead, Forcada preferred not explaining Maverick that it was the strategy they were going to use on the other side of the box, the strategy Valentino Rossi was going to follow. So Forcada convinced Viñales, or maybe Viñales let himself be convinced by Forcada.
And it was in the final stages of FP3 when a situation occurred that turned the Viñales-Forcada relationship upside down. In the closing stages of the session, Valentino Rossi is 11th in the standings, outside of Q2. It’s clear that his strategy with the tires has not worked. With the soft tire he hadn’t managed to go better than 1’55.888, which condemned him to go through Q1. The situation forced the team to make use of a plan B that they had prepared: to resort to a second soft tire!
With that second tire, Rossi goes out on track with the session about to finish. In a final sprint, he rides the perfect lap, going from 11th position to the first, sending none other than Maverick Viñales to the “hell” of Q1! Viñales using Forcada’s strategy had not been able to go higher than tenth place. One can imagine Maverick’s double frustration. First, Rossi had taken him out of Q2, using the strategy he had been talked out of using; second, on the other side of the box they had a plan B; on his side they did not. It was the last straw in an out of control GP.
And it is exactly that image that conveyed this crisis within the Yamaha team: they were out of control. It gives the impression (well more than an impression, it’s the reality) that everything you have read had escaped from the hands of those responsible for team communications and especially the directors of the team.