Three-time MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo believes he would have had more luck finding a way to make the current generation Yamaha M1 more competitive following a substantial decline in form over the last 12 months.
Title-winners in 2021 with Fabio Quartararo, though the Frenchman would just miss out on back-to-back titles to Ducati and Pecco Bagnaia last season, the manufacturer has achieved just three podiums in the last 18 races.
The slump has been blamed on Yamaha’s failure to adopt a new strategy with its M1, which has seen its traditional advantage in terms of cornering and stability negated by its slower inline-four engine relative to the V4 Ducati, KTM, Aprilia and Honda.
While Yamaha has attempted to mitigate this by focusing its attentions on the M1’s engine, it remains the slowest in a straight line and now struggles to extract rapid single lap performance - one of its prior strengths.
“Yamaha has never had the most powerful engine,” said Lorenzo, who raced for Yamaha between 2008 and 2015. “Never in the history because the way the engine is made is not the best, but this also gives the bike good characteristics, for stability in the corners, to move the bike in the corners is more agile and easier for the riders.
“It looks like in a couple of years they lose a bit the strong points but they didn’t get what they needed from an engine point of view, or power, or acceleration.
“So now it is a bike that doesn’t have a strong point like before. I don’t say it is a terrible bike because I am sure it is competitive, but not enough to fight for the title when you have Pecco Bagnaia, who is very mature, and you have 7 more riders at Ducati and also brands like KTM, Aprilia, who are strong.”
Lorenzo, who won all three of his MotoGP titles with the Iwata manufacturer, retired from two-wheel racing at the conclusion of an injury-ridden 2019 season, but went on to rejoin Yamaha in a test and development role.
However, with the impact of COVID-19 limiting opportunities for test riders to get track time, Lorenzo only completed a handful of outings before the two parties agreed to part ways at the end of the year.
It’s an outcome Lorenzo regrets, saying his intimate knowledge of the M1 package makes him an asset for Yamaha at this time, perhaps more so than test rider incumbent, Cal Crutchlow.
“It looks like they lose their way, it is a pity when I was riding for them as a test rider because I really think with me, you never know, I knew a lot about the bike and I could help them to find a way for the evolution of the bike. But they have a different test rider, from the outside it looks like they lose their way, hopefully they find their way like Honda in the future.”