It has been a tough few years for Yamaha in MotoGP. Since the switch to spec electronic software and Michelin tires, Yamaha have struggled to be competitive. In the first half of the current decade, from 2010-2014, Yamaha won 34 races. Between 2015-2019, that total dropped to 24 race victories.
The decline has been impossible to ignore, but it took some time to both register and to turn the ship around. The situation reached its nadir at the Red Bull Ring in Austria last year, the factory Yamahas qualifying in 11th and 14th, Valentino Rossi the first Yamaha to finish, 14 seconds behind the winner, Jorge Lorenzo. That Saturday, MotoGP project leader Kouji Tsuya stood up in front of the media and apologized for the factory team's poor qualifying, an unheard of move by a Japanese factory.
The 2018 season proved to be a catalyst. A string of underwhelming results, and little progress with the bike throughout the season prompted Yamaha to undertake a major shakeup behind the scenes. Personnel were replaced – Tsuya stood down as project leader, and was replaced by Takahiro Sumi – but the whole operation was examined and reorganized.
The objective was to get everyone inside Yamaha talking to each other again, to create open channels of communication between the race teams, the test teams, and the factory. To share information and ideas between groups, rather than retreating defensively behind departmental walls and shifting the blame onto others. It is one reason Yamaha has streamlined its MotoGP test team, to improve communication between the test team and the factory, and dispose of the different working methods between the European and Japanese test teams.