Yamaha’s second Red Bull Ring MotoGP weekend plagued by braking issues ended with Valentino Rossi its best finisher in ninth – and his team-mate Maverick Vinales’ bike on fire in the barriers.
Vinales was forced to bail from his M1 at over 140mph when his front brakes failed at the end of the Austrian track’s main straight.
Describing the incident as an “explosion” of his brakes, Vinales was lucky to walk away from the race for the second weekend in a row – following his near-miss in the Johann Zarco/Franco Morbidelli incident in the first Red Bull Ring weekend when their cartwheeling bikes narrowly missed Vinales and Rossi.
The red flags came out again this time as Vinales’ bike ploughed into the Turn 1 airfence without him then caught fire.
Brake issues had already cost Fabio Quartararo the chance of running at the front last week – and came back to haunt him again today, when he finished only 13th.
“I lost the brakes one time in warm-up, and in any case when you lose it once you lose confidence,” he said.
“We have an adjuster for the brakes, and at the end of the race I had it as far as it would go and still the lever was coming back to the bar. It was dangerous.
“Our bike is very slow but good on the brakes, so we brake hard and stress them a lot” :: Valentino Rossi
“When the red flag came out I had no brakes, and this is a track where you need them.
“We’re missing things for the performance elsewhere like the acceleration, but for sure for two weeks I’ve had a lot of problems with the brakes.”
Quartararo was among the riders to switch from Brembo’s older design of callipers to its new GP4 unit for this weekend, but it seems like the increased cooling from the new design wasn’t enough to relieve the issues he was facing.
He wasn’t the only rider to move to the new design, with Rossi also transitioning to the 2020 specification ahead of this weekend after suffering similar issues last weekend.
But the nine-time world champion said after the race that given the specific strengths and weaknesses of Yamaha’s current bike, the brake issues didn’t come as much of a surprise to him.
“I had some problems last week, but we worked hard with Brembo from Friday and this weekend we had no particular problems,” said Rossi.
“This track is very severe with the brakes and everyone suffers – you can see that everyone has a big duct to cool the brakes.
“But it looks like Yamaha suffers more, because we try to gain in the brakes what we lose in the straights.
“Our bike is very slow but good on the brakes, so we brake hard and stress them a lot.”
Some have speculated that issue may have been exacerbated by Yamaha’s ongoing engine reliability woes as well.
Those struggles with the 2020 powerplant have led to Yamaha placing restrictions on the engine’s RPM.
And if it hs also dialled back the engine braking to help preserve the life of its remaining engines, it could well be that’s forcing riders to rely even more heavily on the brakes – a key issue at one of the toughest-braking circuits of the year.
It seems like over-stressing the brakes is exactly what happened to Vinales in today’s race, too, with the issues faced by the Spaniard (who didn’t switch to the new Brembo system) going beyond those that Rossi, Quartararo and Morbidelli encountered.
Not just experiencing severe brake fade but actually managing to shatter the discs in what he described as an “explosion”, he was suddenly left with no brakes at all as he entered Turn 1.
“I started to lose the front pressure of the brake. I was trying, trying, I went out [of the track] one time,” Vinales said, “then Quartararo, Valentino and [Danilo] Petrucci overtook me.
“Suddenly the brake was good, so I could make 1m24s mediums, I was recovering a lot to Valentino and Fabio, and then suddenly in corner one the brake exploded, so it wasn’t possible to do anything.”
That description was backed up by Honda’s Alex Marquez, who was running behind Vinales when his brakes failed.
“I saw that he was suffering quite a lot,” the younger Marquez brother said when asked about the crash by The Race afterwards, “but I didn’t know if it was because of the tyres or what.
“Then I saw him going slow on certain parts of the track to try and cool his brakes and I understood the problem.
“Then suddenly we arrived in Turn 1 and I saw some small black parts flying off his bike.
“At first I thought it was part of his boot, until I saw him getting off the bike while it was completely straight and I knew he had arrived with no brakes and it was a part of them I saw. It wasn’t nice to see in front of me.”
“This is irresponsible behaviour because it endangered all the other riders” :: Joan Mir
Vinales’ admission that he’d been having braking issues throughout the race he attracted the wrath of some of his fellow riders, with fourth-placed Suzuki finisher Joan Mir calling for the FIM stewards to launch an investigation into his actions.
“I used the smaller pads as always because I had no braking problems all weekend, while Yamaha decided not to change [on Vinales’ bike] despite the difficulties encountered since the beginning of the weekend,” said Mir.
“I heard that Maverick had problems from the fourth lap onwards and this is irresponsible behaviour because it endangered all the other riders.
“Usually when someone causes a red flag they are put under investigation. I hope there will be an investigation into what happened.”