Maverick Vinales has shocked the Moto3 paddock at Sepang by announcing he is leaving the Blusens Avintia team with immediate effect. The Spaniard, who took no part in Friday's free practice at Sepang, cited broken promises and dissatisfaction with the team for the reason for leaving. According to Spanish daily Marca, Vinales has flown back to Spain with his father, Angel, after a meeting with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta failed to reach a solution.
In an interview with the official MotoGP.com website, Vinales talked off worsening relations with the team, after he had called for updates for his FTR Honda to allow him to compete with Sandro Cortese in the Moto3 championship race. His biggest complaint was about the level of the team. "It's not that much about the support," Vinales told MotoGP.com, "but I think it's a second division team - I have to try and win the Championship next year and I don't think I could do it with this team, so that's why I took this decision."
Avintia Blusens team manager Ricard Jove was dismayed at Vinales decision. In a press release, the team said that the decision "was bad for all concerned, for the team, for the sponsors, and for the championship." The team was "surprised, sad and disillusioned at such a serious decision," the press release said. "It does not make any sense not to finish the championship," Jove said.
The problem for Vinales is that he had just signed a two-year deal with the BQR team (which runs the Blusens Avintia Moto3 team) to race in Moto3 again in 2013, with an option to extend for a year and move up to Moto2 in 2014. Walking out on the team now puts him in a very weak bargaining position for 2013. There are already teams who want to sign the young Spaniard for next year, with Marca reporting that he already has offers from both the Aspar team and Aki Ajo for next year. Making the situation more difficult is the fact that Ricard Jove, Vinales' personal manager, is also the manager of the Avintia Blusens team, with Marca also reporting rumors that Vinales had not been informed of those offers before he signed the contract extension with Avintia Blusens. In the worst case scenario, the team could hold Vinales to his contract, which would force the Spaniard to miss a season. Solving that situation could well turn out to be expensive.
That could be part of the problem. Spanish website Motocuatro.com reported recently that Repsol had decided to drop its sponsorship of Vinales at the end of this season. Repsol, which provides support for a number of riders in Moto2 and Moto3, including Marc Marquez, Alex Rins, Miguel Oliveira and Alex Marquez, has decided to concentrate on supporting the Monlau Competicion team, which runs Marquez in Moto2, and Rins, Marquez and Oliveira in Moto3, slimming down its support to a two-man Moto3 team, leaving both Vinales and Oliveira out in the cold.
Though nobody doubts the talent of Vinales, quitting now will raise concerns over his future. Though there have doubtless been frictions in the team, Vinales' results do not appear to show a lack of competitiveness. The Spaniard has won five races this season - more than anyone else in the Moto3 class - and a couple of crashes have cost him valuable points in the championship. Perhaps those crashes were a result of having to push too hard to keep up with Cortese on the KTM, but the other Honda-powered machines have also scored good results, in the hands of Romano Fenati, Alessandro Tonucci, and Alex Rins.
Who will take Vinales' place in the BQR team is as yet unknown. The split is still too recent, and if Vinales could make it back to Sepang in time for qualifying, he could still take part in the race this weekend. But the tone of the talks has so far been far from conciliatory, and each passing hour makes such a scenario more and more unlikely.