Espargaro made his MotoGP debut in 2009 and has been riding in the class full-time since 2010 (though spent a year in Moto2 in 2011), racing on Ducati, CRT, Open class, Suzuki and Aprilia machinery in his tenure.
Despite his vast experience, Espargaro’s general lack of frontrunning machinery in MotoGP means he has just one podium to his credit – a second in a flag-to-flag Aragon Grand Prix in 2014.
Espargaro has helmed development of the Aprilia since joining the marque in 2017 and has enjoyed a strong 2021 campaign, scoring 67 points courtesy of regular top eight performances.
Next season he will be joined by Vinales, who formally parted ways with Yamaha last week following his suspension after deliberately trying to damage his bike’s engine in the Styrian GP.
The nine-time MotoGP race winner is expected to bridge Aprilia’s gap to the podium, and Espargaro is convinced his former Suzuki team-mate will help prove to the world that he is one of the best riders in the premier class.
“I am convinced that I am one of the three best riders in MotoGP,” Espargaro said during the British Grand Prix weekend.
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“I don’t need to have Valentino Rossi as my team-mate to prove how good I am; I’m convinced of that.
“I’m sure I’ll be able to ride faster than Vinales, and I’m sure it will be good to have Maverick here to convince those who aren’t yet convinced of my level.”
Vinales will make his Aprilia debut next week at a two-day test at Misano, with it thought Aprilia is working hard to get him to race the bike as soon as possible.
However, Aprilia CEO Massimo Rivola said on Friday at Silverstone that it would not rush Vinales into a race seat before he was ready.
Espargaro comes into Saturday at the British GP having ended Friday’s running seventh overall, while team-mate Lorenzo Savadori was over five seconds off the pace in last as he struggles with a broken ankle from his fiery Styrian GP crash with Dani Pedrosa.