It now looks certain that Honda will block any attempts by Valentino Rossi and Yamaha to get the Italian onto their M1 before his HRC contract ends on 1/1/2004, thus reducing Rossi's input into next year's machine considerably.

But while Honda have been criticised in some quarters for 'unsporting behaviour', in reality they are simply expecting the #46 to fulfil his contract obligations with them, as originally agreed by both parties.

So, while the situation seems amicable between Yamaha and Honda - Yamaha knew it would be a long shot, even with the offer of returning Alex Barros as potential bait - the question remains as to why, for example, Colin Edwards was able to ride his new Hondas just days after leaving Aprilia. Meanwhile, Rossi still has six weeks to wait.

Whilst the details of riders' contracts are always kept secret, Rossi's mistake appears to be simply that when signing what would be his final Honda contract, he didn't explicitly request that he would be a 'free man' after the final race of 2003, rather than the end of the calendar year.

That oversight was probably because Rossi never expected to leave Honda this season anyway, so was it wasn't a major consideration.

Contracts running to the end of the calendar year is usual, but - if the split has been relatively painless - teams will often allow their former riders to test new machines early, as Sito Pons did when Loris Capirossi and Alex Barros moved to Ducati and Yamaha respectively at the end of last year.

However, Honda are under no illusions as to just how good Rossi is, and don't want to give Yamaha any advantage for what looks like being an epic clash between Rossi/Yamaha and Honda next season. And who can blame them? If it didn't matter they wouldn't have put it in the contract...

But it's not all bad news for Yamaha: HRC can't stop Rossi talking, and he will surely already have been 'debriefed' by Yamaha engineers eager to find out about the RC211Vs strengths and weaknesses - information which Rossi, having carried out significant development on the standard-setting V5, will be able to help with considerably.



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