by Peter McLaren
Valentino Rossi has rejected rumours that he is set to switch to Formula One next season - by confirming that he'll stay in MotoGP, with Yamaha, until at least the end of 2005.
The latest Rossi/F1 whispers emerged following Ford's announcement that it would axe its Jaguar race team and sell off Cosworth (who also supply Jordan and Minardi with engines) at the end of this season.
If a buyer isn't found for Jaguar, or if Jordan or Minardi are left engineless, some of the top teams - such as Ferrari - could be 'forced' to run three-cars in 2005 to meet 20 car minimum grid requirements...
...and who better, the Italian press believed, to drive a third Ferrari than national hero Rossi. After all, 'The Doctor' reportedly lapped within a few seconds of Michael Schumacher on his brief F1 debut earlier this year at Mugello.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo also reportedly backed such a proposal, but sadly for the 'prancing horse', and Formula One, Rossi has confirmed that he'll be in MotoGP next season – although the world famous #46 did admit that a four-wheeled career would be considered after that:
"There have been a lot of rumours in the last few days," began Valentino, when asked about the possibility of Formula One. "For sure this year and next year I'll stay with Yamaha in MotoGP.
"I already have a contract signed, but it's not a problem (to have the) contract because I want to stay here," he stressed. "Then I'll decide if I want to stay another year (2006) or try cars."
Rossi, who is attempting to secure Yamaha's first premier-class world championship since 1992, takes a commanding 39-point lead over Sete Gibernau into this weekend's inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, round 13 of 16.