"I was very taken aback, to be honest, and you can put me in a sackcloth and ashes if you want because I was absolutely sure that the most logical choice for Ducati was Vinales", declared Carlo Pernat, who had bet on a future in red for the Spanish rider. He was not the only one, because many observers were convinced it was a done deal, but Yamaha proved them wrong. The Iwata manufacturer jumped the gun on everyone and the renewal of Vinales’ contract is now sure to have repercussions on the rider market.
Carlo, were you so sure that Vinales would be on a Ducati?
"Yes, I was convinced they’d already signed a deal before Christmas."
Yamaha surprised you…
“It took everyone by surprise. I would have expected Quartararo to sign with them now, not Vinales. Because Fabio last year pushed everyone hard, both riders and company, and they had to roll up their sleeves."
And now what happens?
“The scenarios are now completely different. The balance has moved towards Quartararo, even more so than Valentino. The hierarchy at Yamaha seemed different; the fact that they first signed with Vinales means that he is the most important rider for them".
What situation are Ducati in?
"Ducati are now on the spot and they have run out of ammunition. Of course, Dovizioso is still there, and as I always say he’s almost a phenomenon, but he has a certain age and his rapport with top management is not very good, he could also stop or decide on a change of scenery, even though maybe it will be possible to convince him to stay. Then there’s Petrucci, I hope he will make a leap in quality, but I think he has already reached his maximum limit. In my opinion, at this moment, the future could be Miller, in the hope that Bagnaia will emerge because he is an excellent rider".
Looking further afield, what are the options?
“The main ones were Vinales or Quartararo. If I were a Ducati manager, I’d put my hand in my wallet and go for Fabio. I don't understand their strategy."
Do you mean it was more Ducati's fault than Yamaha's that Vinales renewed?
“I’d put the blame on Ducati 60% and give Yamaha 40% of the merit, because they took advantage of the opportunity. Probably there were some hesitations in the negotiations with Ducati, maybe some mistakes, because as far as I knew Maverick was also convinced about the move. But there is one thing that I cannot explain."
“A contract with Vinales can be worth around €5 million, the same as the one with Quartararo and just like Valentino, then Morbidelli must also be counted in as well. It seems like a lot of money, unless Yamaha don’t want to be a ‘Marquese del Grillo’ and say: 'I am who I am, and you are fucking nobody". They are flexing their muscles."
And Ducati are suffering ...
“I don't think they are standing still; in fact, I think they are calling Quartararo every five minutes. Or at least I hope they are doing it. Also, because Fabio can’t be too happy that Vinales signed before him, this could influence him psychologically. But at the moment, I don't rule out that Yamaha could keep all the four riders it has now. "
Even in the same teams?
"A company can do whatever it wants, that’s not a problem. In 1998 I had Valentino, Capirossi and Harada in Aprilia and I had no problem in this sense, you always find a way."
OK, let’s do a bit of fantasy rider market…
“I wouldn't be surprised if Ducati had already signed Quartararo. In the past, there was always talk between the manufacturers, the riders weren’t shared out but there were gentlemen agreements. In my opinion, Carmelo Ezpeleta wasn’t involved in this operation with Vinales, because Dorna would have cheered for Maverick in Ducati. My opinion is a clear victory for Yamaha, they have taken everyone by surprise and have caused problems for Ducati. They wanted to flex their muscles and I have the impression that they didn’t even speak to Valentino about it. Whereas until now they had always informed him of all their decisions, this time they didn’t even ask him. It's a new course, you have to congratulate them."
What role does Rossi play in all this?
"The idea that’s going around is Valentino and his brother Luca Marini together, but for now it is just an idea. I think Vinales signing can trigger off a chain reaction: Honda will put pressure on Marquez and Ducati on Quartararo".
Is Marquez unattainable for Ducati?
"They could make an incredible attempt to go for him, with Audi behind them, and convince him, but I think he will stay with Honda and Quartararo will go to Ducati".